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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF ROUNDUP

Booker's Eagle, Hole in One Help Him to a One-Shot Lead

April 30, 1999| From Associated Press

PGA Tour rookie Eric Booker's round of golf ended much better than it started.

After five holes Thursday, Booker was one over par and wondering where his next shot might go when he made a startling turnaround with an eagle and a hole in one on consecutive holes, shooting a six-under 66 for a one-shot lead in the $2.5-million Shell Houston Open at the Woodlands, Texas.

Booker's big comeback put him ahead of Texan Omar Uresti, who went out early and shot a 67 that included seven birdies.

Uresti's lead withstood several challenges until Booker caught him with five holes left in his round with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 5. Booker went six under for the tournament lead with another 15-foot birdie putt on No. 7.

But Nos. 15 and 16 were the centerpieces for Booker, who started on the back nine.

"I'd like to keep that angel on my shoulder," said Booker, who dropped in a 25-foot putt for eagle on the par-five, 521-yard No. 15 and was shocked when his next swing produced a hole in one at the par-three, 175-yard 16th.

"It was to the right, pin high, and it caught a hump and went sideways at 90 degrees into the hole," he said. "I said, 'That was a good shot,' and I was trying to pick up my tee and I heard the crowd."

Booker, who played on the Nike Tour last year, got the 11th ace on the PGA Tour this year. It was the third time in 1999 that a player had consecutive eagles.

Hal Sutton led a group at 68. Money leader David Duval bogeyed the first hole he played after a two-week vacation, then birdied three of the last four for a 69. Duval started his second nine par-bogey-birdie-bogey before recovering.

Duval was joined at 69 by Jeff Maggert, who is second on the money list; Steve Elkington, 12th in earnings; Bob Estes; John Daly and Bruce Lietzke.

Lietzke challenged for the lead but bogeyed the final two holes.

*

Amy Benz and Juli Inkster overcame cold, wind and rain to fire four-under 68s to share the first-round lead in the LPGA's City of Hope Myrtle Beach Classic at Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Six other golfers, including Karrie Webb, this season's top money-winner and the only player ever to win the Myrtle Beach title, were a stroke back at 69.

Webb is looking for her third consecutive title in the event at Wachesaw East Golf Club. Twelve other players were at 70.

Temperatures were unseasonably cool--in the 50s--as the $675,000 tournament got underway. Brisk wind swirled through the tall pines lining the 6,231-yard layout during the morning and early afternoon.

By late afternoon, heavy rain soaked the course but play continued. More rain was expected today.

"I'm a good mudder," said Inkster, who has won two tournaments already this season. "If you shoot three or four under, you feel you have shot a good round."

Benz, in her 17th season on tour, has yet to win a title. She notched birdies on three of the first four holes and was six under at one point.

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In Front

Leaders through Thursday's play:

HOUSTON OPEN--PAR 72

Eric Booker 34-32--66 -6

Omar Uresti 32-35--67 -5

David Sutherland 31-37--68 -4

Jeff Gallagher 36-32--68 -4

John Cook 35-33--68 -4

Fred Funk 35-33--68 -4

Joey Sindelar 35-33--68 -4

Hal Sutton 35-33--68 -4

Cameron Beckman 34-34--68 -4

MYRTLE BEACH CLASSIC--PAR 72

Juli Inkster 35-33--68 -4

Amy Benz 32-36--68 -4

Hiromi Kobayashi 34-35--69 -3

Karrie Webb 34-35--69 -3

Mhairi McKay 34-35--69 -3

Jill McGill 36-33--69 -3

Cristie Kerr 33-36--69 -3

Rachel Hetherington 34-35--69 -3

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