Han Gets First LPGA Win at Big Apple

Sunday, July 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) _ Hee-Won Han got her first LPGA Tour victory in the tournament that dealt her such a tough loss a year ago.

Han matched par in a final-round 71 Sunday that gave her a two-shot victory over Meg Mallon in the LPGA Big Apple Classic, making her the tour's third first-time winner in the last four weeks.

Last year, Han missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation that would have given her her first win, then she lost to Gloria Park on the first playoff hole at Wykagyl Country Club.

This year there was nothing but smiles for the 2001 LPGA Tour rookie of the year as she made a 4-foot birdie putt on the closing par-5 to finish at 11-under 273.

Mallon, who has 14 career victories, started the final round tied for the lead with Han. Mallon couldn't match the way she closed her round Saturday when she birdied the last four holes, although she came close.

She almost made a 60-foot eagle putt on 18, but the tap-in birdie gave her a 2-over 73 and took any pressure off Han as she faced her final putt.

When it dropped, Han turned to the crowd with her fist held high and a huge smile on her face.

Cindy Figg-Currier, who started the day in third, five strokes behind the leaders, had a 72 and finished tied for third at 5-under 279 with Grace Park, who had a 68.

When Mallon bogeyed the par-4 12th, Han had a four-shot lead. That was cut in half when she bogeyed the par-3 13th and par-4 14th, and it quickly brought to mind last year's final round when she blew a three-stroke lead.

But both birdied the par-5 15th for the fourth straight day and Mallon's late-round magic wasn't there like it had been Saturday.

Her 25-foot birdie attempt on 16 just rolled around the cup and a 45-footer for birdie on 17 just touched the cup. Han matched the pars and then both birdied the final hole.

The run of first-time winners started with Angela Stanford in the ShopRite Classic and then Hilary Lunke won the U.S. Open the next week. Last week, Hall of Famer Beth Daniel won the Canadian Women's Open and, at 46, became the tour's oldest winner with her 33rd title.

Han, who had two other seconds last year, won $142,500. She entered the tournament 23rd on the money list with $284,594 with four top 10 finishes.

Mallon, who was 27th on the money list, won $85,962. This was fourth top 10 finish in this tournament with her best a third in 1997.

Michele Redman had a 69 to finish fifth at 280, one stroke in front of Kristal Parker-Manzo (68), Rachel Teske (69) and Denise Killeen (69).

Suzy Whaley, the 36-year-old teaching pro from Avon, Conn., had a 72 in her final round before playing in this week's Greater Hartford Open on the PGA Tour. She finished at 7-over 291.