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Final-Round 67 Earns Johnson Win and Record

March 18, 1986|SHAV GLICK | Times Staff Writer

The water-logged GNA/Glendale Federal women's professional golf tournament mercifully sloshed to a close Monday as tall Chris Johnson finished with a course-record 67, five under par, and won by two shots.

Johnson shot 75-70-67--212 for 54 holes at the Oakmont Country Club in Glendale.

Golf tournaments are supposed to be well-structured events with 18 holes a day for four days. Not the GNA/Glendale Federal tournament. Rain and hailstorms caused play to be cut short on three days and another day's play was wiped out completely.

It all made for some interesting rounds, though.

For instance, take Johnson, a 27-year-old University of Arizona graduate. She played 8 1/2 holes Thursday, 27 1/2 Friday, 12 1/2 Saturday, none Sunday and finished with 5 1/2 Monday.

The tournament had been cut from 72 to 54 holes by officials of the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. during Sunday's cloudburst, a decision they must have regretted when Monday turned out to be the nicest day of the tournament.

"I was surprised how well the course drained," Johnson said. "There were a few puddles but not near as many as we expected after the way it stormed Sunday."

Johnson, one of the taller LPGA players at 5 feet 10 3/4 inches, made three birdies Monday in the six holes she had to finish to break out of a tie with Jane Geddes, 26, from Dallas. Geddes birdied the final two holes, finishing with a 71 for 214, two shots behind Johnson.

Geddes' path to the final hole was different from Johnson's. She played 18 holes Thursday, 9 Friday, 21 Saturday, none Sunday and 6 Monday.

Juli Inkster was third at 71--216, followed by Amy Alcott, 72--217, and Laurie Rinker, 76--217.

When the women returned to Oakmont for their final few holes Monday, Johnson was in the middle of the 13th fairway where she had hit her tee shot late Saturday, and Geddes was on the 12th tee.

"When I left Saturday, I knew my measurements and figured to hit a 3-iron (on the 405-yard hole) when I came back," Johnson said. "When I warmed up and walked to my ball this morning, the weather was so nice, and I felt so good that I hit a 4-iron. It's always a nice feeling when you can hit a shorter club."

Johnson parred the hole, then sank a 15-foot putt on No. 14, a 155-yard par-3 hole, for a birdie.

"I felt if I could shoot even par for six holes, or maybe make one birdie, I would be in good shape," Geddes said. "Then, I was in the 12th fairway about to hit my second shot, when I look up at the scoreboard and see that Chris has made a birdie. That put me behind almost before I started."

Johnson, whose only previous victories came back-to-back in Phoenix and Tucson two years ago, also birdied No. 15, a 340-yard par-4, pulling two shots ahead.

"I still didn't feel like I was out of it when Chris made her second birdie because I felt I had a good chance to make an eagle on the last hole," Geddes said. "But when they posted her birdie on 18, I knew I was playing for second."

On No. 18, a 427-yard par-5, Johnson split the fairway with one of the longest drives of the day. She followed that with a 3-iron second shot to the middle of the green and took two putts for a birdie 4.

The 67 was two shots better than the course and tournament records set last year by Vicki Fergon and equaled Saturday by Rinker.

Geddes birdied the last two holes, both par-5s, with putts of 12 and 4 feet. The second-place finish was her fourth since she joined the tour in August, 1983. She has never won.

"I'm very satisfied with the way I played," she said. "I certainly did not beat myself. I can't believe anyone could shoot the last seven holes on this course in four under par, but Chris did it."

All of the 51 players who had to finish their rounds Monday showed up except Jan Stephenson. The defending champion had only three holes to play but elected to disqualify herself.

One who did come back was Barbra Mizrahie, who is 4 1/2 months pregnant and was playing in her last tournament until after delivery.

"Instead of swinging down, I have to swing around," she said. "I understand there are limitations to what I can do now. I feel round. I'm hitting shots like I've never seen in my life. When that happens, your body is telling you that you are too big."

Mizrahie, who learned to play as a barefoot teen-ager in her native Indonesia, shot 77--230.

Johnson's $37,500 first-place check will be a nice birthday and/or wedding present for herself. She will be 28 on April 25 and will marry Don Hegeman, a club pro, the next day.

"If you had asked me before I teed off today if I thought I would win, I would have said no," Johnson said. "Last night I kept thinking about the weird little things that could happen, especially that first shot from the fairway. Once I hit it though, I put them out of my mind."

Johnson, who grew up in Arcata, Calif., near the Oregon border, won the Northern California junior championship in 1975 before enrolling at Arizona State. She later transferred to the University of Arizona, graduating in 1980 with a degree in accounting.

Johnson wasn't wearing anything green--except her LPGA player's clip--but St. Patrick's Day should have special meaning for her. When she won her first tournament, the 1984 Samaritan Turquoise tournament at Phoenix, it, too, ended on St. Patrick's Day.

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