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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, February 25, 2005

Rosales tops SBS Open

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By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

KAHUKU — Jennifer Rosales spent a hectic offseason in the Philippines that left almost no time for golf. Apparently, she didn't need to practice.

Jennifer Rosales watches her approach shot on the par-5 18th. She leads by two after a 66.

Ronen Zilberman • Associated Press

Rosales fired a 6-under-par 66 at the Palmer Course yesterday to take the lead after the opening round of the inaugural SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Lorena Ochoa, Angela Stanford, Heather Bowie and Sung Ah Yim are second, two shots back.

Hall of Famer Juli Inkster is alone at 69. There is a massive pileup another shot back, including Honolulu 15-year-old Michelle Wie, the only amateur here.

The LPGA's first official event of 2005 marked its return to O'ahu after a four-year absence. Its last tournament in Hawai'i was the 2002 LPGA Takefuji Classic on the Big Island.

That was Wie's first LPGA appearance. She was 12. Yesterday was her 18th LPGA tournament, and first of eight this year. The Punahou sophomore tied for first with 19-year-old Brittany Lincicome in the unofficial teenybopper sweepstakes yesterday, beating out six other teens.

Wie would have won it outright, but for a missed 3-footer on the 16th. "That was really stupid," she said — three times.

That hiccup neutralized a 60-footer she bombed in for birdie on her second hole (No. 11). She made the turn at even-par and was still there when she decided to "re-concentrate" because her score was "boring." She birdied two of her final six holes, then hit a few balls in the dark.

"I have to say I was a little bit nervous coming in because I hadn't played in a long time," Wie said. "I think I have the feel now."

Rosales, 26, breezed through the breezy Palmer Course without a bogey. She hit every green in regulation and drained three of her six birdie putts from outside 10 feet.

Rosales did not attribute her ultra-efficient round to relentless training the past few months. The 1998 NCAA champion became the first player from the Philippines to win an LPGA event last year, when she was 10th on the money list.

Her success had her saturated with off-course commitments in Manila. She played one practice round between her final tournament three months ago and the Women's World Cup two weeks ago.

"It was worse than I expected," Rosales said with a guilty grin. "I had a good year last year and that is what I get when I get back home. I am able to influence a lot of younger ones and give them wisdom and a lot of good examples. That is what I did."

Rosales insisted she felt "awkward" and "weird" on the tee yesterday because of her long break. It was tough to tell. She was as animated as ever — "When I play good I show it, when I play bad I show it" — on a day when almost everything went right. At one juncture (Nos. 12 to 16) she birdied four out of five.

No one else could keep up in gusts up to 25 mph, though 44 players shot par or better on a course most saw for the first time this week. The cut comes after today's second round, with the top 70 and ties playing in tomorrow's final round.

Former Rainbow Wahine Cindy Rarick will need to go low to get there. Rarick, whose first LPGA victory came on Turtle Bay's original course in 1987, shot 76 yesterday. Rarick represents Waikoloa Beach Resort. Dorothy Delasin, Turtle Bay's representative, is at 71.

Like Rosales, Ochoa was overwhelmed with off-course commitments in the offseason. She followed up a Rookie of the Year 2003 season with her first two victories last year, becoming the first Mexican-born LPGA champion and finishing third on the money list.

Her success spawned two new tournaments in Mexico — the first in more than 30 years — and a massive wave of demands from a country aching for an international sports hero. The MasterCard Classic honoring Alejo Peralta is next week in Mexico City.

"I think it's going to be crazy," Ochoa said. "But I am very happy. It is a dream come true."

Michelle Wie said she "was a little bit nervous coming in," but made her first swing of the day — off the 10th tee — a good one.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Ochoa finished in the top 10 in every major statistic but driving accuracy last year, setting LPGA records for birdies, sub-par rounds and rounds in the 60s. So it was no surprise she hit just eight fairways yesterday, or that she had one of just four bogey-free rounds.

Bowie and Yim, a 20-year-old rookie from Seoul, each had two bogeys and six birdies. Stanford had one bogey, when she three-putted her second hole. The 2000 WAC champion spent the rest of the day hitting the ball close enough to effectively take three-putts out of the equation.


Good shape: Michelle Wie's father BJ is her caddy this week. "He was pretty good," she said yesterday. "He actually kept up with me." Fanny Sunesson, Nick Faldo's regular caddy, will carry her bag in two LPGA events next month.

Memorable streak: Angela Stanford's only victory came in the 2003 ShopRite LPGA Classic. The following week she tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open, losing to Hilary Lunke in an 18-hole playoff.

Good memories: Heather Bowie's best LPGA finish is a tie for second. She was third in last year's Weetabix Women's British Open, and also tied for third at the 2002 LPGA Takefuji Classic at Waikoloa Beach.

Not boring: Grace Park had but eight pars yesterday. She shot 2-under 70 with six birdies.

Looking up: Na Yeon Choi and Wie — who received the sponsor's exemptions — played with Catherine Cartwright yesterday. Wie and Cartwright are both a bit taller than 6 feet. Choi, a 17-year-old making her LPGA debut, is 5-5.

Encore: Jennifer Rosales will host a golf clinic for the Ko Olina Kidz Club Sunday at Ko Olina Golf Club. The clinic begins at 10 a.m.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8043.