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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2003

Farr Classic brings out best in Bowie

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Heather Bowie is convinced she will be a winner on the LPGA Tour. It could happen this weekend. It could happen next year. What will be, will be.

“I tell myself it's going to happen, but not necessarily on my time schedule,” Bowie said yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club. “It doesn't weigh on me because I know it will happen when the time is right.”

And the right time could be drawing near.

Bowie has been knocking on the door this year, and if she can come up with the last missing ingredient, a finishing kick, there is plenty of reason to see her as a favorite in this week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

“I really like coming here,” she said. “The course is always in great shape, especially the greens. I always feel I can make a lot of putts. Whether I do or not is another story. But I always feel confident here.”

It shows.

Bowie's top LPGA performance as a rookie in 2000 was a tie for fifth in the Farr Classic. Her best finish the next year was a tie for third place in the Farr. Last summer she authored a 5-under-par 66 in the third round and was within two shots of the lead after 54 holes before fading on Sunday.

Sometimes a fade is good on the golf course. Sometimes it isn't, and, in Bowie's case, making the grade on Sundays could be the final step to success.

“I've just had too many rounds at par,” she said. “On Sundays I need to get out of the gate faster. I have to be 2 or 3 under after the front nine so I'm in better position.”

Positioning in 2003 is better than ever for Bowie, 28, who captured the NCAA individual title and earned a finance degree while at the University of Texas.

She has already won more money - $305,500 - than in any of her first three professional seasons, and has matched her previous single-season high with three top-10 finishes.

Bowie finished second to Annika Sorenstam this year in the Office Depot Championship at El Caballero Country Club near Los Angeles.

“I played pretty well, real steady, on Sunday and felt like I was about to make my move when I had a double-bogey on the 14th hole. I missed on the wrong side of the green. It was a bad swing combined with a mental error. And that's all it takes sometimes.

“I was happy with the way I hung in there, though. I stayed with it and birdied No. 17. It was a really tough course and there weren't many low scores. I think Annika won at 5-under. So I was disappointed I lost, but happy with how I played.”

Bowie is a sports nut and big baseball fan. Much of her off-course time is spent at ballparks like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.

“I'd rate Fenway and Wrigley 1-2. I got to sit in the new seats on top of the Green Monster in Fenway earlier this year and that was neat. I got to see the Mud Hens' new stadium last year and it is really nice.”

As a baseball fan, Bowie knows every good team has a great closer. As a golfer, she knows she has to start and finish all on her own.

Two weeks ago Bowie started with rounds of 70-66 and was the sole leader after 36 holes in the Women's British Open at historic Royal Lytham & St. Annes. But she finished 74-79 and settled for a tie for 19th.

Bowie, who stands just 5-3, pounds it out there with the big hitters, averaging 263.9 yards off the tee, the 13th-best driving average on the LPGA Tour. And she ranks 15th in hitting greens in regulation.

That's a powerful 1-2 punch that seemingly has her poised to get over the hump.

“I feel like I've had chances in three of the last four weeks. During my other three years on tour it would be sporadic. I've never put a streak together like this one where I feel so confident that my game is solid.

“It's not any one thing. I'm just driving it a little farther, so I'm hitting shorter irons in, hitting more greens and giving myself more makable putts. It's just all sort of coming together.”

At a good time and, history would say, a good place.

“I tell myself to be patient,” Bowie said. “But I have to be honest. I don't feel many doubts when I come here. I can't think of a better place for me to win.”



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