Doolan gets first career title in sudden death

BEAVERCREEK, Ohio -- Wendy Doolan ended a eight-year winless spell by living for the moment.

"All I was thinking about was what I had to do at that time. I try to stay in the present," Doolan said after sliding in a 6-foot birdie putt on the fifth playoff hole Sunday to beat Wendy Ward and win the rain-shortened LPGA Champions Classic.

After the slightly uphill putt fell in the right side of the cup, Doolan raised her arms in triumph. It was her first victory on tour and came in the 129th tournament of her six-year LPGA career.

It was her first win since the 1993 Australian Open, yet she never doubted her ability.

"I always have had the belief I could shoot the numbers I have to," Doolan said.

The clutch putt came on the same 18th green where she earlier made a 10-foot par-saving putt after blasting out of a greenside bunker on the final hole of regulation.

Doolan, 32, then watched from the nearby practice putting green as Ward narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have given Ward her third career win.

"She makes the putt, good for her," Doolan said. "I did my best and today it was good enough. Another day it may be her day."

Ward had almost the same putt on the fifth playoff hole. The ball came to rest on the lip.

Doolan then stepped up and -- as darkness was falling at the Country Club of the North -- hit the decisive putt that gave her the first-place check of $112,500.

During her news conference, Ward turned to a tour official and said, "Is that her first win?" Told that it was, the Texan smiled and added, "Another foreigner."

All but two of the 14 LPGA tournaments this year have been won by foreign-born players.

Doolan and Ward finished at 12-under 132. Doolan shot a closing 8-under 64 and Ward had a 68.

They traded pars on the first three playoff holes, then both birdied the fourth as what started out as a large gallery dwindled to a few hundred by the finish.

"Sure I'm disappointed I'm not standing on the 18th green with the trophy, but I did play well enough to win," Ward said. "I just didn't get the putts to fall."

Heavy rains Friday forced officials to cut the scheduled 54-hole tournament to 36 holes.

Doolan began the day at 4-under and four shots back of Ward. She made the turn at 7-under, but still trailed Hall of Famer Beth Daniel by three shots.

Daniel has 32 wins in her glittering 23-year career -- but none since 1995. She also began the day four shots back of Ward, but made up ground in a hurry with birdies on the first four holes.

She had a 30 on the front side, but managed just one more birdie the rest of the day. Even though she had a big day on the greens after switching to a long putter, she missed a 2-footer for birdie at the 11th hole that would have widened her lead.

Daniel held the lead at 10-under until Ward, Doolan, Dottie Pepper and Maria Hjorth all hit double digits at one time or another. Daniel's 5-foot birdie putt at the 16th helped her regain sole possession of the lead.

Doolan, however, strung together birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 16 to pass Daniel and get to 12-under.

Ward opened her round with a birdie then parred the next 10 holes. Birdies at the 12th, 15th and 16th got her to 12-under.

Daniel's 65 left her tied for third with Hjorth, who birdied the last two holes to also shoot a 65 and finish at 11-under.

Daniel said she was encouraged by her play.

"I work as hard on my game as I did when I was the leading money-winner," said the 44-year-old. "You work to get into contention. I'd be lying if I didn't say I had some butterflies in my stomach. I look at that as a good thing."

Janice Moodie also birdied the final two holes to match Pepper at 10-under. Moodie closed with a 66 and Pepper had a 67.

Defending champion Annika Sorenstam birdied five of the final eight holes for a 66 to get to 9-under, where she was tied with Tina Barrett who had a 64 for the low round of the day.

Sorenstam said she was too far behind to catch up in a two-round tournament.

"I made a good run at it," said Sorenstam, who was seeking her sixth win of the year. "I'm a long-distance runner. I'm not a sprinter."