Chuasiriporn has rough day

Disastrous stretch on back nine results in opening-round 77

June 04, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WEST POINT, Miss. -- Jimmy Chuasiriporn left to go swimming yesterday after watching his big sister make three birdies on the front nine at Old Waverly Golf Club and make the turn at 3-under par, taking the early lead in the 54th U.S. Women's Open.

When the 11-year-old returned about two hours later, Jenny Chuasiriporn made another birdie on the par-3 17th hole. Then he saw his sister's score -- 5-over par. "He said, `What happened?' " recalled their mother, Edy. "He was very surprised."

What happened to the 21-year-old from Timonium in her professional debut was nothing short of bizarre, but then strange things are supposed to happen in this tournament. Considering last year, Chuasiriporn should know.

One unlucky bounce on a wind-blown layup shot at the par-5 10th hole resulted in a triple-bogey and led to a disastrous stretch on the back nine that also included two double-bogeys and two bogeys, giving Chuasiriporn an opening-round 77.

By the time play was suspended last night, a total of 109 players had passed her. Second-year pro Kelli Kuehne, who was coming off her first LPGA victory last week in Corning, N.Y., leads after shooting a course-record 8-under par 64.

Juli Inkster, who has won three major championships in her 17-year career, is one stroke behind. Moira Dunn, who has yet to win after four years on tour, was two shots off.

Defending champion Se Ri Pak of Korea, reigning Nabisco Dinah Shore champion Dottie Pepper and Sherri Steinhauer were at 68. Four lesser-known foreign players -- A. J. Eathorne of Canada, Akikio Fukushima of Japan, Catriona Matthew of Scotland and Catrin Nilsmark of Sweden -- were at 3-under par along with Donna Andrews and Sherri Turner.

That's where Chuasiriporn was -- after nine holes. "I started out pretty well," said Chuasiriporn, who made three birdies in a stretch of five holes on the front. "But I had a little mishap on No. 10 and it shook me up a little bit."

Trying to lay up with a 4-wood with her User.Event 7 was not expected here! second shot on the 520-yard hole, Chuasiriporn's ball sailed right, hit the cart path on a fly and ricocheted 20 yards further to the right before going out of bounds.

It came to rest not far from the condominium where Chuasiriporn and her family are staying this week -- and where Jimmy was swimming.

Chuasiriporn hit her next shot in the rough, and wound up three-putting from 25 feet. Overcompensating, Chuasiriporn then hooked her 4-wood approach on the par-4 11th in the water and double-bogeyed. She three-putted from 40 feet on bogey on the par-3 12th.

"She got a little worried out there," said her older brother Joey, who is caddying for his sister here as he did last year at Blackwolf Run, where as an amateur she lost in a 20-hole playoff to Pak. "Maybe a little skeptical."

Said Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who played in the same group as Chuasiriporn and shot 4-over 76, "She was playing super golf. After that shot, she seemed to lose some of her rhythm. That happens. Golf is a funny game."

After making two pars, Chuasiriporn hit her drive on the par-5 15th hole out of bounds and made another double-bogey. She then pushed her drive on the par-4 16th to the right, later chunked a chip, and again took a bogey.

Finally, as her little brother was returning from his swim, Chuasiriporn found her previous form. She hit her tee shot on the par-3 17th over the bunker that protects the green, and made a 15-footer for birdie.

"It was more a mental thing on the back nine," said Chuasiriporn, who got up-and-down on the par-4 18th hole after hitting her tee shot in the rough. "Certainly it wasn't my swing because it was there on the front nine."

But Chuasiriporn admitted that she has been having some trouble blocking shots to the right. She seemed to work them out in sessions here with her longtime teacher, Ted Sheftic, who had come from Hanover, Pa., to watch his star pupil play for the first time.

Sheftic had gone to the airport to pick up his wife and arrived at the course as Chuasiriporn was making the turn.

"She can't let one shot bother her," Sheftic said as he walked along the 12th fairway. "I just hope those two holes [10 and 11] don't tear her up."

After working with Chuasiriporn for more than an hour on the practice range yesterday afternoon, Sheftic put his arm on her shoulder and some positive thoughts in her head.

"You're going to be a superstar," said Sheftic, who has worked with Chuasiriporn since she was 13. "You've just got to get a couple of rounds under your belt. Keep trusting that swing."

Perhaps because of the way she finished, or because of her even-tempered nature, Chuasiriporn chalked up yesterday's uneven round to experience. Or a lack of experience.

"I came into this tournament knowing I had a lot to learn," she said. "Now I need a couple of rounds under par. First I have to make the cut."

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