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Franco Wins Greater Milwaukee Open

July 11, 1999

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Carlos Franco, who grew up dirt poor in Paraguay, is now a millionaire.

The PGA Tour rookie shot a 5-under-par 66 Sunday to win the Greater Milwaukee Open, his second tour victory in nine weeks.

Franco won $414,000, making him the first tour rookie to win more than $1 million in a season and putting him in the top 10 on the 1999 money list.

Franco, the son of a greenskeeper at one of Paraguay’s three golf courses, played a fourth straight day of solid, unspectacular golf. He finished with a four-day score of 20-under 264, the best 72-hole mark in GMO history.

He trailed Jerry Kelly by one stroke entering the final round. But Kelly, a Wisconsin native cheered by scores of fans, fell off the pace early and never caught up.

Tom Lehman birdied the last two holes to take second at 266.

Franco also won the Compaq Classic in New Orleans in May. On Sunday, he pushed his yearly winnings to $1.38 million and joined David Duval, Tiger Woods and Payne Stewart as the only multiple winners on the tour in 1999.

Franco, 34, who skipped the previous two tour events to be with his wife and family. He became the first golfer since Greg Norman in 1989 to win the GMO on his first try. He entered the GMO as a tuneup for the British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.

``I played very simple this week, no nervousness,″ Franco said. ``I came here to practice, so to win is just unbelievable.″

Kelly played the first three days without a bogey. He had a chance to become the first golfer to play an entire event without a bogey since Lee Trevino at the Greater New Orleans Open in 1974.

Kelly birdied two of the first four holes Sunday and took an early two-stroke lead. His bogeyless streak reached 59 holes before the par-5 sixth, where he three-putted for a 6.

Franco birdied the sixth to drop to 17 under and tie Kelly, who proceeded to bogey four of the next five holes. He got back within three shots of Franco by chipping in from a sand trap on No. 14 for birdie. But a bogey on 16 took the pressure off Franco.

Lehman entered the GMO in a quest for Ryder Cup points. Mission accomplished: With his second-place finish, Lehman moved from 21st to 12th on the points list, just behind Steve Stricker. The top 10 in points make the Ryder Cup.

The day’s early highlights belonged to Steve Lowery, who broke the Brown Deer Park scoring record with a 61. He scorched the front nine for four birdies and an eagle, and he finished at 269. That put him in a tie with Dan Forsman for fourth place.

Lowery finished at 10 under, beating by one stroke the mark held by four players and matched most recently by Ben Bates on Thursday. His score also matched the tournament record set by several players at Tuckaway Country Club, the tournament’s previous home.

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