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1997

For the second time in less than one year, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Northfield, Ore., played host to a national championship. For the second time the championship had unique circumstances.

Late in the summer of 1996, Tiger Woods made headlines with his historic victory in the U.S. Amateur, making him

Fast forward to the summer of 1997. Annika Sorenstam was supposed to become the first woman to win three consecutive U.S. Women's Opens, setting the stage for a rare double three-peat for Pumpkin Ridge. She shot 77-73 for an 8-over-par 150, however, and missed the cut.

In steps hall-of-famer Nancy Lopez. After the third round, her 7-under-par 206 was good for second place behind leader Alison Nicholas. Lopez was thrice a runner-up, including once the year before Nicholas began playing.

Lopez had done everything right. She had three rounds in the 60s, as many as she had in 20 previous Women's Opens. She was seven under par, two shots ahead of the next player, and three shots off the lead.

But Nicholas pushed aside one hallowed Women's Open record by totaling 10 under par at the Witch Hollow Course, in part thanks to a 56-yard wedge shot at the fourth hole that dove into the cup for an eagle 3. And despite leading by four shots with six holes remaining, victory was assured until Lopez missed a downhill 15-foot birdie putt at the 72nd green that could have forced a playoff. The left-to-righter slid below the hole, leaving Nicholas a two-footer for par.

By Friday night, Nicholas was at 6-under 136, one ahead of Lopez, Liselotte Neumann and Kelly Robbins. Nicholas was coming off a week's-best 66 that sent the USGA scrambling, since the numbers for the hole-by-hole leader board at the 18th green only went to red 9s. Saturday morning, Miracle Sign Co. delivered 18 numbers, six each of 10s, 11s and 12s. It was a miracle none were needed until the last putt dropped Saturday, and by the fourth hole Sunday Nicholas was 13 under par.

For the week, Nicholas lost strokes to par at five holes: she bogeyed the sixth and 17th twice each (including the latter Sunday), and doubled at the 14th in the final round. From the time she made her eagle at No. 4, when Lopez conceded a kick-in birdie that would have drawn her within one, Nicholas made nine unbroken pars. No one else got closer than five strokes the last day until the final few holes.

The U.S. Women's Open drew 830 entries, just shy of the 1996 record. The 36-hole cut came at 5-over-par 147. Sixty-two professionals and two amateurs completed all four rounds. Nicholas, whose previous best finish in the Women's Open was 13th place in 1996, earned $232,500 for her victory.

OPEN RECORDS

Starts - 14

Best Finish - Winner in 1997

Rds - 48

Cuts Made - 10

Top 3 - 1

Top 5 - 1

Top 10 - 1

Top 25 - 2

Avg. - 73.96

Scores In 60s - 4

Rds Under Par - 6

Earnings - $302,644.00
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