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Redman holds off big names for ‘awesome’ first victory

July 20, 1997

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) _ What a way to get your first victory. Hold off two of golf’s biggest, baddest names, set a tournament record at one of the LPGA’s most prestigious events and prove that you do, too, have the right stuff after six years as an also-ran.

For Michele Redman, it could not have been better.

``It feels awesome,″ said Redman, suddenly $112,500 richer after completing a start-to-finish victory Sunday in the JAL Big Apple Classic.

Redman spent the night before her first final-group tee-time on the phone with coach Sam Carmichael and Linda Leclaire, her sports psychologist.

``My coach told me last night I deserved this, and he’s right,″ Redman said. ``I’ve paid my dues.″

Redman dropped two shots over the first three holes but rallied with three birdies the rest of the way for a 1-under-par 70 and a 72-hole total of 272, one stroke better than the old record in a tournament the LPGA players generally rank among the top three on their tour.

She also scored a three-stroke triumph over the intimidator of women’s golf, playing the final round head-to-head with Annika Sorenstam, the winner of four tournaments this year and 10 overall. Also mounting a last-day challenge was Karrie Webb, a five-time winner in less than two years on the tour.

Both got within a stroke of Redman before faltering on the back nine. Sorenstam, coming back from disappointment at the U.S. Women’s Open last week, bogeyed No. 10 with a three-putt from 15 feet, while Webb three-putted for double-bogey 5 after hitting her tee shot into greenside rough at the 16th.

``I thought about Karrie and Annika all day.″ said Redman, who could frequently be seen glancing at the leaderboard. ``I wondered how they were feeling, because they’ve been there before. I lead the whole week, and I thought if I didn’t win, people would ask, `Why?‴

Sorenstam finished at 9-under 275, with a final-day 69, while Webb was 1-under for the round and 7-under 277, tied with Chris Johnson for fourth behind Meg Mallon, who shot a 68 for a 276 total. Mallon birdied three of the last 10 holes.

``It’s tough to win, especially the first, but there is no better feeling,″ Sorenstam said. ``I feel happy for Michele, and I feel happy for the way I played.″

Redman, a 32-year-old from Port St. Lucie, Fla., had never finished higher than third, never led a tournament after three rounds and never played with Sorenstam before they teed off on the 6,161-yard Wykagyl Country Club course Sunday.

Her start was shaky, failing to get up-and-down from greenside rough at Nos. 1 and 3. She needed sand saves for pars at Nos. 2 and 5, while Sorenstam birdied the par-3 5th from 12 feet.

But Redman said before the round that she would remain confident of her ability to win, and that confidence started to show on No. 7. She hit a 3-iron to 7 feet and dropped the putt for birdie-2, matching birdies on longer putts by Sorenstam and Barb Mucha, the third member of the final group.

Redman then birdied No. 11 with a 12-foot putt, stretching her lead over Sorenstam to three strokes, and saved par on No. 16 after her tee shot found the right front rough. She wedged to 6 feet and made the putt, pumping her fist as it fell.

``Sixteen was the key to my round, a great up-and-down,″ Redman said.

Sorenstam, who was favored to win a record third consecutive Women’s Open but instead missed the cut, closed to two strokes with a birdie-3 at No. 12 but parred in, barely missing a birdie putt on the par-5 15th after driving into the rough.

Two holes later, Sorenstam came close on another birdie try, leaving a downhill 15-footer from the back fringe a foot short. After tapping in, she swiped at her ball on the side of the green, knowing her last chance had passed when Redman parred.

``With eight holes to go, I left a lot of putts short, and I never was able to apply that pressure,″ Sorenstam said. ``But I’m definitely pleased with the week. All the bad thoughts from the open are gone.″

DIVOTS: Redman’s 72-hole total broke the tournament record of 273, set in 1990 by Betsy King and matched by Juli Inkster in 1992 and Tracy Kerdyk in 1995. ... King had a final-round 69 for a 5-under 279 and first place among the Lilly Legends, a $500,000 prize pool for players 40 and over that was inaugurated at the Big Apple. Jan Stephenson, who started the day tied for eighth in the field, had a final-round 76 to finish even-par 284 for a second-place Legends’ tie with Sally Little and Hollis Stacy. ... Redman was the third consecutive first-time winner at the tournament, following Kerdyk and Caroline Pierce. ... She also was the second wire-to-wire champion on the LPGA tour this season. Tammie Green led all four rounds at the Sprint Titleholders Championship in last May. ... Johnson had a final-round 67. ... Mucha bogeyed three of the last six holes to finish with a 73 for 279.

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