2002: Meunier-Lebouc lands 1st U.S. title

Springfield, Ill.

She was challenged much of the day by a pair of Korean stars who already have made their marks on the LPGA. But France’s Patricia Meunier-Lebouc had her own statement to make.

Meunier-Lebouc earned her first LPGA victory by shooting a final-round, 5-under-par 67 Sept. 1 at The Rail Golf Course to defeat Se Ri Pak (65) and Mi Hyun Kim (69) by two shots. Meunier-Lebouc had an overall score of 18-under 270 to earn the winner’s check of $165,000. She became the event’s sixth consecutive first-time LPGA winner.

“I’ve worked so hard and had to let it go and just make the score happen. . . ” she said. “I was going through it very well. I was really feeling inside myself, the fact that I was playing well and that I could just rip at it and be confident.”

Emilee Klein closed with a 69 to tie for fourth and earn a spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team. She was at 15 under with Beth Bauer (67) and Laura Davies (67).

Meunier-Lebouc, a former Ladies European Tour player in her second full LPGA season, broke a bone in her lower back Jan. 15 and spent the next seven weeks healing. She had two sixth-place finishes as a rookie in 2001 – one of those at the State Farm – but she struggled earlier this season as she learned how to swing again without protecting the injured area. Her best finish this year had been a tie for 17th at the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic in July.

“This year has not been easy for me,” she said. But much of her week at The Rail was.

Meunier-Lebouc, who has won five European titles, opened with a career-best 64, then followed it with a 67 for a three-shot lead at the halfway point.

But she struggled to an even-par 72 Saturday in a round that included three three-putts, and shared the lead with Kim after Kim holed out a 106-yard shot for eagle on the 17th hole.

Kim, seeking her third victory of 2002, had four birdies on the front nine Sunday to take a one-stroke lead, but Meunier-Lebouc pulled even with a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 13. Meunier-Lebouc went ahead when Kim bogeyed the 414-yard 14th after hitting her approach shot over the green. Both players birdied the par-5 15th, and Meunier-Lebouc closed with three pars.

“She was more nervous yesterday,” Kim said. “Today, she was just confident. She hit it good and putted good.”

Bauer had a brief share of the lead after a birdie on No. 15, but she double- bogeyed the par-3 16th after hitting her tee shot into the water right of the green.

Pak, the world’s No. 2 player and a three-time winner this season, including the previous week’s First Union Betsy King Classic, was five groups ahead of the leaders. She posted her 65 and hoped the untested Meunier-Lebouc would come back to her. But she never did.

Statement made.

– From staff and wire reports

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