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Suddenly, Laura Baugh Is All Alone : After Second-Round 70, She Leads Spencer-Devlin by One

March 01, 1986|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | Times Staff Writer

That pussycat of a course known earlier in the week as Mesa Verde Country Club grew fangs and claws during Friday's second round of the $330,000 Uniden LPGA Invitational golf tournament.

The leader board, once cluttered with four co-leaders and another 16 players within three shots, became spacious and roomy. By day's end, Laura Baugh had the lead, and just seven other players were within three strokes.

A troublesome wind and damp playing conditions caused many of the problems for the field, which Baugh led after shooting a two-under-par 70. Her two-day total was a six-under-par 138.

Muffin Spencer-Devlin shot a 69 and is one stroke back. Mary Beth Zimmerman, who won last week's Standard Register/Samaritan tournament at Phoenix, is at 140 after another 70, while two of the first-round co-leaders, Patty Sheehan and Cathy Morse, dropped to three under par for the tournament. Joining them at 141 were Barbra Mizrahie, Jan Stephenson and Hollis Stacy.

"This is the kind of golf course that, other than Bonnie Lauer, I don't think anybody has just brought it to its knees in terms of shooting lights out over four days," Spencer-Devlin said.

Lauer, who finished with a tournament record of 11 under par here in 1985, has had a far more difficult time this year at Mesa Verde. Her second-round 70 wasn't enough to offset Thursday's score of 80, and she missed the cut by one stroke.

Joining her were such notables as Betsy King (154), who finished sixth on the 1985 LPGA money list, Alice Miller (151), third on the same list, and Jane Blalock (151). The 144-woman field has been reduced to 70 for today's third round.

Baugh started the round on No. 10 and played her first 12 holes as if she were using a doctored ball, the kind you receive with a wok, ginsu knife and a 1-800 number.

She began the day four under par, but then she birdied three of her first five holes, and suddenly the Uniden course record of 66, set by Nancy Lopez in 1984, was looking less imposing.

Baugh's putter was especially cooperative. She sank a 20-footer for a birdie on the par-five, 510-yard No. 11 and repeated with a 22-foot putt on another par-five, this one the 525-yard No. 13. Her third birdie came on No. 14, a 367-yard, par-four that Baugh humbled with a driver, a 9-iron and a 15-foot putt.

The gallery that followed Baugh must have wondered how in the world she has gone 13 seasons without an LPGA victory. Plumbers make more than Baugh has earned in her best year, and they don't have half the short game.

Baugh made the turn and promptly birdied No. 2, a 345-yard par-four, with a 25-foot putt. On the next hole, a 168-yard, par-three, Baugh used a 5-iron and nearly holed out. "That was fun," she said.

The rest of her round, though, wasn't nearly so amusing. She bogeyed No. 4 and No. 6 and ended the 18 holes with an unattractive bogey on No. 9 with a two-putt from five feet.

"I gave it back out there," she said. "I just couldn't stand it."

Baugh has led tournaments after two rounds. Problem is, she can't stay there. "I've done about everything except win," she said.

On Friday, Baugh glanced at the leader board, saw her name and didn't know quite how to react to the sight of nine under par. She said her opponents probably weren't at such a loss.

"I hope they were scared stiff," she said. "Oh, they probably went, 'Oh, she won't last. She'll come on back to us. She loves us too much back here.' "

Baugh obliged them on the closing holes, but not enough to entirely relinquish the lead. And anyway, she said, "The only day that matters is Sunday."

Maybe so, but there were plenty of other players willing to own the Uniden lead after two days.

Zimmerman's 70 was consistent, if nothing else. That came as welcome news considering Thursday's round (another 70), when she hit just three greens in regulation as opposed to the 13 she hit Friday.

Ritzman, who began the day at even par, also shot a 70. She worked her way to four under before faltering on the final nine holes.

The same went for Stephenson, who couldn't get to the driving range fast enough after her even-par round of 72. At one point Friday, Stephenson was just one stroke behind Baugh with four holes to play. But then she bogeyed the par-four No. 6 and the difficult par-four No. 9. And Cathy Kratzert also made a brief run at Baugh before settling at two under par.

One of the few players ignoring the leader board was Spencer-Devlin, who went her merry way and ended the day exactly where she feels most comfortable: behind the leader.

"That's my favorite place to be," she said.

Last year, Spencer-Devlin overcame a six-stroke deficit at the MasterCard International Pro-Am to win her first LPGA tournament. Predictably, she didn't seem too terrified of Baugh's one-stroke lead with two rounds remaining.

"I'm here to have fun," she said. "Girls just want to have fun."

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