2001: LPGA - Taking great pains to win

Kutztown, Pa.

Minutes before her opening-round tee time at the Betsy King Classic, Heather Daly-Donofrio was faced with a decision that would prove to be fateful in her career.

“Just before I was ready to play Thursday, I was afraid to pick up a club,” said Daly-Donofrio, who was having so much lower back pain that she nearly withdrew before the start of the tournament.

But Daly-Donofrio, 31, decided to play in pain, and after four rounds at Berkleigh Country Club, the payoff was her first LPGA victory.

“I really didn’t think this was going to happen,” Daly-Donofrio said Aug. 26 after she shot a final-round 3-under-par 69 and beat Mhiari McKay and Moira Dunn by one stroke. She collected a winner’s check for $120,000 from the $800,000 purse.

Daly-Donofrio, in her fourth season on tour, had five birdies in her last round and finished at 15-under 273. Her previous best finish this season was an 11th at the Wegmans Rochester International in June.

“This whole weekend turned out to be a blessing,” she said. “I didn’t think this (victory) would come for me for a couple of more years.”

Daly-Donofrio, a Yale honors graduate and former head coach there, held the lead over the final four holes, making pars on the last two when McKay missed two short putts.

Daly-Donofrio felt her putting and overall game improved steadily on the back nine despite sliding five strokes off her pace on the front nine when she recorded a 3-under 32 with four birdies.

“I felt pretty confident heading down the stretch,” she said. “It was different than the first nine when I felt I was going to get sick. I was pretty nervous.”

In May, she led the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship heading into the final round, but she shot 75 and finished tied for 19th.

McKay, who was tied with Daly-Donofrio at 15 under through 14 holes, missed a 10-foot par putt on No. 15 for just her fourth bogey of the tournament.

McKay, who began the day 12 under, then missed a 4-footer on No. 17 and a 3-footer on the final hole and finished at 274.

“I really felt Mhiari was going to make the putts at the end,” said Daly-Donofrio.

Said McKay, “I shot 2 under and any round under par is good, but obviously I am disappointed the way that things happened in the end. But you know, that is the game of golf, and they say that which does not kill you only makes you stronger. Or so I am told.”

Dunn, who held the third-round lead at 14 under and also was seeking her first LPGA victory, double bogeyed the par-3 third. She then bogeyed No. 4 and double bogeyed No. 9. But she also had birdies on Nos. 5, 7, and 8.

Dunn knocked in a 12-footer for birdie at 18 to tie McKay at 274. Dunn also had a second-place finish at the Wendy’s Championship Aug. 12.

Host Betsy King and defending champion Michele Redman both finished at 7-under 281.

– Compiled from wire reports

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