Golfer Kim Wins Giant Eagle Classic

Monday, July 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VIENNA, Ohio (AP) _ After winning the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, Mi Hyun Kim was asked to test the microphones at the award ceremony by saying a couple of words.

``I'm happy,'' she said.

With good reason. She won a daylong duel with Kelly Robbins for a one-stroke victory Sunday, her first of the year.

Her big moment came on the 17th hole when she made a birdie after her fairway shot landed 4 feet from the cup.

Kim finished with a 3-under-par 69 for a 14-under 202. Robbins closed with a 71 and hasn't won in her last 83 LPGA starts.

``Any time you can finish second, you've hit a lot of shots well,'' Robbins said. ``But I was licking my chops hoping for something better.''

Kim, a 5-foot-1 South Korean, was at a two-club disadvantage on almost every approach shot as she matched Robbins stroke for stroke in the same pairing.

Robbins started the day with a one-shot lead over Kim. She was up by two strokes as both players sized up their second shots from the middle of the 11th fairway.

But Robbins hit a sand wedge into the greenside bunker at the par-4 hole, while Kim's second shot landed 2 feet from the pin. Robbins was unable to get up and down from the sand and picked up a bogey. Kim made her birdie putt to pull even at 13 under.

``A two-shot swing is a lot, but I wasn't concerned,'' Robbins said. ``We were still even. I was like, 'OK, game on. No more goofing off. Let's see what we can do.'''

They traded pars on the next five holes until Kim's 7-wood from 170 yards put her in easy range for a birdie at the 17th.

``Neither of us were doing too much out there _ until Kimmy hit one close,'' Robbins said.

Kim said she benefited from having hit the same shot from the same spot in the fairway all three days. She parred the hole the first two times.

``Before that second shot I had a lot of confidence,'' Kim said. ``I knew how I had to hit the ball. Every time my shot had hooked back a little because I was on a little hill. I aimed a little to the right side of the pin.''

Both players drove down the heart of the 18th fairway, with Kim hitting her 5-wood second shot pin high and 15 feet away. Robbins hooked a 7-iron into the gallery left of the green and then bumped a shot that stopped less than a foot from the hole.

Kim ran her birdie putt 3 feet past the hole but nailed the comebacker.

``I hit a very strong first putt,'' Kim said. ``I didn't know I was that strong. I was a little nervous.''

The victory, worth $150,000, was the fourth for Kim in four years. Kim, who opened with rounds of 65 and 68, came into the Giant Eagle fifth on the LPGA money list.

Robbins, in her 11th year on tour, carried a lead into the final round for the 12th time in an LPGA event. She has won four of those tournaments, but dropped to 0-6 when she was ahead by a shot with 18 holes to play.

``I'm obviously a little disappointed because any time you go into the final round of a tournament with a one-shot lead you like to play well enough to win,'' Robbins said.

Robbins, who matched the competitive course record with her first-round 64, has not won since the first tournament of the 1999 season.

Two-time defending champion Dorothy Delasin and Grace Park closed with 67s to tie for third at 205.

``I ran out of holes,'' Delasin said.

Park said she could have gone much lower.

``It was one of those days when a 67 felt horrible,'' she said. ``I struck the ball so badly and had so many birdie chances but I just couldn't get it in the hole.''

Former Giant Eagle winner Tammie Green had the day's low round, a 65. She was at 206 along with rookie Natalie Gulbis, who shot a closing 68, and first-round co-leader Beth Bader.

Bader, who had earned just more than $9,000 this year on tour, tripled that sum in one tournament.