Thursday, February 8, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, February 8, 2001

LPGA returns to beauty of Big Island

Read more on Karrie Webb and the LPGA Takefuji Classic in our special Golf Report.

Advertiser Staff

KEAUHOU, Hawaii — This week, the world’s finest female golfers return to Kona Country Club’s Ocean Course, a setting so serene that Hawaiian royalty once summered here.

Don’t let the location fool you. Last year’s Takefuji Classic debut was anything but serene and Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam and friends are back for more.

The first round of the $850,000 tournament tees off this morning, with the final round Saturday. The LPGA’s top three career money winners — Betsy King, Webb and Sorenstam — are here along with 129 others.

Webb beat Sorenstam on the first extra hole to win last year’s inaugural Classic, draining a 10-foot birdie putt.

"Sure you’ve got butterflies in your stomach and the adrenaline runs through your body," Webb said then, "but I love that feeling. I’m not scared of the situation."

Webb’s success snowballed into a seven-victory season. She won Player of the Year honors again, and a record $1.9 million. Sorenstam, who won more tournaments than anyone in the ’90’s, got not-so-sloppy seconds, with five victories and $1.4 million.

Webb tees off at noon today (10th tee) with Akiko Fukushima and Grace Park, who won the last LPGA event two weeks ago in Florida. Sorenstam is in the next group, in her 2001 debut.

"If you look at the way I’ve played the past seven years," Sorenstam said, "I only played once in January and that was my worst year. I’m not going to do that again."

The LPGA is in its 51st season and, for the first time, purses average $1 million. Webb, from Australia, and Sorenstam, from Sweden, are two of 79 international players on the tour, from 20 countries. Nine of those are rookies, including three from Seoul, South Korea.

The Ocean Course was built in 1967 by architect Billy Bell. In its case, age is the cause of beauty; while new courses are required to have setbacks from the water, this one has holes that are all but on the beach. The only water hazard is the Pacific Ocean.

The tour moves to Oahu next week, for the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open at Kapolei Golf Course.

Takefuji is a consumer finance company in Japan.

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