Crooked Stick a test of more than distance Sheehan opens defense of title GOLF

July 22, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

CARMEL, Ind. -- As one of golf's finest women amateurs, Vicki Goetze competed in four U.S. Women's Open championships, made the cut in all of them and twice was awarded a medal as the group's low scorer.

Now, it is a whole new game for Goetze as she goes into this week's championship as a professional.

Goetze, 20, has made one pro start, tying for 53rd in the Jamie Farr event in Toledo.

Goetze is the first to agree that a winner of a major title has an advantage. "You can't fall asleep out there; you have to have the confidence to go do it -- and those that have been there before know what it's like."

One of those winners is U.S. Women's Open defending champion Patty Sheehan, who will attempt to become the sixth player to win consecutive titles when the U.S. Women's Open begins today at Crooked Stick Golf Club.

Last year, Sheehan became the first woman to win the U.S. and British Opens in the same year. But she hesitates when people call her the best player in women's golf today.

"Let's just say I came off a good year and I'm having another good run," Sheehan said. "I've had some periods when I've played well and some when I haven't played well."

Only five other players have been able to win back-to-back Opens. They were Betsy King in 1989-1990, Hollis Stacy in 1977-1978, Susie Maxwell Berning in 1972-1973, Donna Caponi in 1969-1970 and Mickey Wright in 1958-1959.

Sheehan, 36, said she hasn't set any specific goals for her career -- other than winning this tournament.

"Winning the first U.S. Open was incredible. To do it again, well, it would be even more so," she said.

But at Crooked Stick, it will not be easy. Architect Pete Dye built the back nine first, but determined it was so severe he had to ease up on the front.

Of Nos. 16-17-18, King said: "Those are hard finishing holes. It would be tough to make a birdie to tie in that stretch."

Tammy Green, a two-time tour winner this year, said: "Really difficult. I'd say those three are as tough a set of finishing holes as we play."

Goetze, who recently finished her sophomore year at the University of Georgia, is ready for the challenge. Some critics consider Goetze's moderate distance off the tee a major drawback to success as a pro, but she views it differently.

"This course, for instance, is not too long for a person with my length [about 225 yards off the tee]. Sure, the big hitters can take some things out of play, but all of us still have to hit good shots to the greens."

Look at Goetze's amateur career and it is hard to believe she is only 20. In her background are membership on two World Amateur Team squads, a victory in the 1991 Georgia Class A High School tournament as the only female competitor, triumphs in the 1989 and 1992 U.S. Women's Amateurs and the 1992 individual NCAA women's championship.

With this resume, it is understandable how she could opt to leave college after two years.

Goetze will use sponsor exemptions to play in two LPGA events, Boston and Stratton Mountain, then will prepare for the LPGA Qualifying School, the first level of which is the end of August.

NOTES: Baltimorean Tina Barrett, who missed the cut at the JAL Big Apple last week after taking off two weeks, said, "I'm just not playing well right now. I know what it is, and I'll just have to work it out. And I usually play well in the summer, too." . . . . Former Owings Mills resident Sarah Ingram, runner-up in the recent Eastern Open, comes in off a final-round loss to Emilee Klein in the Broadmoor Ladies Invitation. . . . The other player in the field with area ties is Kim Williams of Potomac.

U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN

What: 48th U.S. Women's Open

Where: Crooked Stick Golf Club, Carmel, Ind.

When: Today through Sunday

Who: Field of 156 (includes 16 amateurs)

Purse: $800,000 (winner, $144,000 and a gold medal)

Course: 6,311 yards; par 72

Format: 72 holes stroke play. Cut to low 60 and ties and anyone within 10 strokes of the lead after 36 holes.

TV: Today, tomorrow -- noon-2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., ESPN. Saturday, Sunday -- 3:30-6 p.m., ABC.

Defending champion: Patty Sheehan. Past champions in field: Every winner since 1976, except for Jerilyn Britz, 1979, and Janet Anderson (Alex), 1982.

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