RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Alice Miller and a couple of friends from Arizona, Frances and Louise, worked together Sunday to win the 14th annual Nabisco Dinah Shore golf tournament and its $55,000 first prize.
Miller matched a charging Jan Stephenson birdie for birdie in a pressurized final round to shoot five-under-par 67 and a 13-under-par tournament record 70-68-70-67--275 at the Mission Hills Country Club. This equaled Donna Caponi's winning score in 1980.
Stephenson, who started the final 18 holes four strokes back of Miller, could make up only one shot despite shooting a 66 on a scorching 100-degree desert day. Stephenson, who won the GNA Classic two weeks ago at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale, earned $33,000 for second place.
"Fortunately, Jan was far enough back that her 66 didn't do it for her," said an elated Miller, who won her first major championship and her fourth tournament. "I knew I had some bad swings, but I never gave up."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 9, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 9 Column 2 Sports Desk 2 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
A photograph of golfer Denise Strebig was incorrectly identified as Lauri Peterson in Monday's editions of The Times, and a photo of a boxer identified as Olympian Virgil Hill was not Hill.
In the Monday Morning story on announcer Vin Scully, it was erroneously written that the George Washington Bridge is located in Brooklyn. The George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx with New Jersey.
Judy Clark, who finished 70--279, was third. Young Denise Strebig of San Bernardino and Beth Solomon, who shot her final three rounds in 68-69-68 after starting with a 76, tied for fourth at 281. Strebig's purse of $17,437 was the largest of the former USC golfer's career.
The $55,000 moved Miller past Patty Sheehan as the Ladies Professional Golf Assn.'s leading money winner. Miller has $131,625 and Sheehan, who double-bogeyed the final hole Sunday to drop into a tie for seventh place, has $99,700.
Sheehan started the final round one stroke behind Miller, but had problems with the oppressively hot day.
"The heat was bothering Patty before we even teed off," said Miller, who had said Saturday she expected Sheehan to mount a charge. "She seemed rather light-headed at times and didn't seem able to concentrate the way she usually does. She hadn't been feeling well, and the heat seemed to make her feel worse."
It was a big day for golf instructor Ed Oldfield, whose two proteges, Miller and Stephenson, finished one-two.
"Without Ed Oldfield I could not have won this tournament," Miller said. "I've worked with him since I was a senior at Arizona State and he watched every shot I made this week. Of course, I couldn't have won without Frances and Louise, either."
Frances is Miller's putter. Louise is her specially built 61-degree L wedge that saved her from two would-be disasters.
"The three of us, along with my caddy Smiley, are family," said Miller. "Before the tournament, Smiley told Frances that, 'We're in Palm Springs now and it's time to go to work.' "
Frances got the job done Sunday as Miller needed only 28 putts while making seven birdies and two bogeys.
"My game plan, the one Ed and I set before the tournament, was to make one birdie every three holes," said Miller, a 28-year-old from Marysville, Calif. "That way, if I was making enough birdies, the bogeys wouldn't hurt."
The plan worked to perfection, particularly with help from Louise in preventing too many bogeys.
"I had two difficult situations today when Louise saved me," Miller said.
"The first was the fifth hole (152-yard, par-3) when I hit my tee shot long and to the left, in heavy grass. The ball was really buried, but I took Louise and hit straight down on the ball just to get it moving. I just chunked it, and it hit the pin and almost holed out.
"The second was on No. 17 (170-yard, par-3) when I missed the green with my 6-iron off the tee and had a difficult downhill shot to the pin. Under pressure, those are the ones that are hard to execute. I knew I could skull it, or chunk it, or chilly dip, but I took Louise and put her on auto-pilot and knocked the ball down close for a tap-in putt."
Those two holes pretty well illustrate Stephenson's appraisal of Miller's competitive juices.
"Alice is a grinder," Stephenson said. "She is so tough, so good out of trouble, and she absolutely will not accept anything less than par. I knew she would hang on and I knew my only chance was to keep making birdies."
Stephenson, who has been plagued with putter problems for two years, had seven birdies and, at one point, came within one shot of the lead only to have Miller respond with birdies of her own. Stephenson did not make a bogey until the 17th hole.
"It's a heavenly feeling to be able to putt again," she said. "I only had 12 putts in the last nine holes and when I stood over a putt I didn't care if it was 20 or 25 feet, I knew I could knock it in."
Among her birdies was one that measured 30 feet, a couple around 25 feet and two 20-footers, including one on the final hole that lifted her out of a tie with Clark into sole possession of second place.
"When I bogeyed 17, that hurt," Stephenson said. "After I missed the green, I chipped up to six feet and misread the putt. When it missed I was in a state of shock. Then when I made the one (birdie putt) at 18, it felt almost like I won the tournament. It was so important to be second by myself because it is too expensive a position to share."
Stephenson won $33,000, Clark $24,814.
Juli Inkster, last year's winner who would have received a $1-million bonus had she won again, started off the final round as if she expected to rally from 11 strokes back. Inkster tied the tournament record with a 31 on the front nine and when she birdied the 11th hole she was six under par for the day, but then she succumbed to a series of 5s and ended up 31-38--69.
Now it is Miller's time to face a $1-million bonus possibility. If she can win the J&B Scotch Pro-Am in two weeks at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, she will collect a million.
"I have done very well on the Las Vegas courses," Miller said, "and I am playing reasonably well so I'll certainly give it a try. I'll take next week off to celebrate winning here and getting myself ready for the J&B."
The LPGA plays this week in the Kyocera Inamori Classic at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in San Diego.