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Allison Finney edges ahead in windy Rochester

June 21, 1997

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Allison Finney edged to the front Saturday in the Rochester International, shooting a 3-under-par 67 while nearly all the early leaders failed to match par in tricky wind conditions.

The exception was defending champion Dottie Pepper, whose 71 left her just one stroke off the pace alongside Gail Graham of Canada (66) and second-round co-leader Nanci Bowen (74).

Finney jumped ahead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 11th, then sent a 95-yard sand wedge spinning back into the hole for an eagle on No. 12. Her nerves bit back when she missed 3-foot putts on the 16th and 17th.

``I definitely felt a little chink in my armor,″ said Finney, who had an 8-under 208 total on the Locust Hill course. ``It’s a position I haven’t been in in a while, so I’m not going to worry about those two putts.″

Joan Pitcock (68) and Australia’s Wendy Doolan (70) were two back at 210, and Kim Saiki (68) and Penny Hammel (70) followed at 211.

The other second-round leader, Nancy Scranton, crashed out of contention with a 79, as did first-round leader Michelle McCann, who shot a 78.

Pepper, who won the rain-shortened tournament last year for the first of four 1996 victories, lost a share of the lead when she came up short at the 18th and failed to get up and down from 35 yards.

However, she was pleased to close the gap on a day when ``this northwest wind we have definitely makes this golf course play its toughest.″

``You cling in there and give yourself a chance to make Sunday matter,″ she said.

Finney, 38, whose lone tour victory came in 1989, has missed the cut eight times in 13 outings this year, her best performance a tie for 37th in January. She tied for fourth here last year, her best finish in 1996.

After 14 years on tour, Finney said she has struggled to summon up enthusiasm of late. ``I’ve gotten a little burned out,″ she said.

She was cautiously optimistic, not ready to start celebrating. ``If I can keep my mistakes to a minimum, I should have a good day,″ she said, smiling.

Graham, who won the Australian Ladies Masters in March, ran up five birdies over nine holes, leaving three approach shots inside 5 feet and dropping putts of 25 feet and 30 feet.

``I have a lot of confidence in my putting right now,″ she said.