2002: Sorenstam, Safeway stay sharp Portland, Ore.
This year, there was a happy ending to the story of the Safeway Classic, the little tournament that could. In 2001, the event was canceled because of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
And so the LPGA staged a double celebration at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, with Annika Sorenstam’s eighth victory of the year and Portland’s 31st consecutive year as organizer of an LPGA event.
In a pervasive atmosphere of economic uncertainty, with some golf sponsors defecting and others questioning their allegiance, the Safeway Classic seems, well, safe.
Even after the 2001 event was canceled, Portland’s nonprofit Tournament Golf Foundation Inc., still donated $500,000 to local children’s charities and $500,000 to Red Cross relief efforts.
Sorenstam, when she becomes eligible for the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2004, will be the 11th Hall of Famer to play her way onto the permanent Portland trophy, the others constituting a who’s who of women’s golf – Kathy Whitworth, JoAnne Carner, Donna Caponi, Judy Rankin, Nancy Lopez, Sandra Haynie, Amy Alcott, Betsy King, Patty Sheehan and Juli Inkster.
After Inkster won in 1999, her first name was engraved on the trophy as Julie. (Mi Hyun Kim won in 2000, and the engraver somehow got that one right.) After the 2001 event was called off, officials decided to correct Inkster’s name with a new engraving of all the winners.
Juli was Juli. So far, so good. Opposite 2001, however, the new plate read “Tournament Cancilled,” leading organizers to ask the engraver to look in his dictionary and produce yet another plate.
Kim was 1 under par in her 2000 victory. This year, 46 players beat that score, with Sorenstam 16 strokes lower at 17 under – a shot ahead of Kate Golden.
Golden, who wiped out Soren-stam’s six-shot lead with a 63 in the final round of the 2001 State Farm Classic, had visions of a repeat. Her reaction after being told she’d play with Sorenstam on Sunday at the Safeway: “Like, wow, OK, cool.”
Sometimes LPGA players talk in complete sentences, such as Sorenstam’s assertion that she enjoyed the pressure. “I wanted to see what I am made of,” she said.
What she is made of, besides money, is the demeanor of a bulldog and a bite to go with it. “She just stuffed it right in there – once again,” Golden said of Sorenstam’s second shot on the final hole.
Sorenstam led by three heading into Sunday, and a birdie at No. 10 increased her margin to four. But birdies by Golden at Nos. 11 and 12 and a bogey by Sorenstam at 15 reduced the lead to one.
On 18, Golden “nuked” a 7-iron shot over a pond to 9 feet of the hole. Sorenstam responded with a 9-iron shot from 139 yards that rolled 11 feet past the cup.
Sorenstam made her birdie, as did Golden. Although Golden failed to shoot another 63, she did finish with 65. Sorenstam closed with 68 after a course-record 62 on Saturday.
As the battle ended for spots among the top 90 on the money list and full LPGA exemptions for 2003, Beth Bader moved from 96th to 90th with a tie for 18th in Portland. She displaced Ashli Bunch, who missed the cut and fell from 90th to 92nd.