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Okamoto Edges Spencer-Devlin for LPGA Win

February 03, 1986| United Press International

MIAMI — Ayako Okamoto, her back problems over with, never gave her pursuers an opening Sunday, shooting a steady 1-under-par 71 to win the second LPGA tournament of the year by a stroke over Muffin Spencer-Devlin.

Okamoto, who went into the final round with a one-shot lead, finished the $200,000 Elizabeth Arden tournament with an 8-under-par 280, tying the tournament record set last year by JoAnne Carner.

Spencer-Devlin fashioned a final-round 69 over the par-72, 6,103-yard Turnberry Isle Country Club course for a 281.

Third at 283 was Debbie Massey, who faltered on the back nine and finished with a par 72 Sunday. Next at 285 were Beth Daniel with a 75, Hollis Stacy with a 73, Pat Bradley with 70, Lori Garbacz at 72 and Lisa Young at 70.

Carner shot her second straight 69 Sunday and finished seven strokes back at 287. Val Skinner, the winner last week, shot 71 for a 292.

Spencer-Devlin came into the final hole only one shot back, but drove into the bunker on the right of the fairway, hit her second shot into the rough on the left, was short of the green with her third shot, pitching to 12 feet and two-putting for a bogey 6.

Okamoto faltered briefly on the 18th, but not enough to lose. She hit her third shot over the green and chipped to 20 feet. But she only needed two putts and she got them for the bogey and the win.

Okamoto birdied the second, third and sixth holes before faltering on No. 10. She drove into the left rough, and her approach sailed over the green, 40 feet from the cup. She left her chip 12 feet short and two-putted for the bogey 5.

Spencer-Devlin birdied the last four holes of her front nine to burst into contention. She faltered with a bogey 5 on the 12th hole when her approach flew over the green behind a cart path.

But she rallied with a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-4, 310-yard 16th hole to pull within a stroke of Okamoto.

Okamoto didn't take up golf until she was 23. The 34-year-old former Japanese softball star won more than 25 tournaments in Japan and joined the U.S. tour in 1981, winning one tournament in 1982 and one the next year before breaking through with three victories in 1984.

Last year, her bad back forced her off the tour in July without a win, but she said her back felt fine all week and even better on Sunday.

"My back feels great," she said.

She also said she "couldn't believe" how well she played despite the limited practice time dictated by her doctor.

The $30,000 first-place check gives her a career LPGA total of $599,235.

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