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Neumann first tasted success in Open at BCC

1988: The LPGA rookie left Baltimore as a rising star, sooner than she ever expected.

Lpga Championship

June 08, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

A shy person to begin with, Neumann seemed to retreat even more, and her golf game suffered. Being named the tour's rookie of the year at the end of the 1988 season put a great deal of pressure on her. Like many of the other 14 players who had made the Open their first victory, Neumann couldn't back it up.

At least not immediately.

After nearly winning a few times, Neumann's next victory didn't come until the 1991 Mazda Japan Classic. It wasn't until 1994, when Neumann won three times, including the Women's British Open, that she was again thought of in terms of being a star.

But after winning her 12th LPGA event in 1998, Neumann went into a winless drought. She nearly won another major, at the 2002 Kraft Nabisco, finishing a stroke behind Sorenstam. By 2003, she was 71st on the money list with a little over $108,000 in earnings and no top 10 finishes.

"A lot more downs than ups," Scott said of Neumann's slump. "The great thing about Lotte is that you'd never know on the outside if she was No. 1 on the money list or No. 101. Inside, it was driving her crazy. She just kept working hard."

Neumann, who has used Sorenstam as an inspiration by going more to the gym and working with Sorenstam's coach, Henry Reiss, wouldn't trade her week in Baltimore for a dozen more victories.

"Overall I'm extremely happy with what I've done and hopefully I have a lot of golf in me," said Neumann, who recently passed $5 million in career earnings. "Maybe the best years to come, who knows?"

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