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Published: 8/14/2003

Lunke out to prove she's no fluke

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Lunke rolled in a lengthy birdie putt on the 18th hole of a three-way playoff to capture the top prize in women's golf early last month at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon.

The outcome was compared to Ben Curtis' victory at the British Open in that both golfers were relative unknowns who came out of nowhere to capture major championships.

“I surprised even myself,” Lunke admitted yesterday at Highland Meadows, where she will tee off at noon in today's first round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

“It was a great week and I hope it's a sign of great things to come in my career. I hope I don't turn out to be a one-hit wonder. But if it turns out to be the only thing I do in my career, it's a tremendous accomplishment that nobody can take away from me, and something I can cherish for the rest of my life.

“I don't have any problem with people calling it an upset. It was. But I hope I can prove it wasn't a fluke.”

The 24-year-old Lunke's best LPGA Tour performance was a 15th-place finish last year as a rookie at the Wendy's Championship in Dublin, Ohio. Before the Open she had played in 12 tour events and had missed the cut seven times, with no finish better than 21st.

Then, out of the blue, came a weekend of steely nerves, solid ball-striking, smart course management, and some truly prolific putting that produced the Open title. She finished 72 holes at 1-under-par 283, then rolled in that dramatic birdie putt for a 1-under 70 that beat Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins in a playoff for the $560,000 first prize.

In four tournaments since, Lunke has missed three cuts and finished in a tie for 64th place at the Evian Masters in Paris.

“I think everybody knows how tired and run down I was. I didn't have any chance to recuperate from that week.

“Now, it's like, `OK, I've had time to settle down, so let's start playing well again.' Hopefully my game will take shape and I'll be able to score well.”

Lunke is realistic enough to know playing well isn't always going to translate into contending or winning.

“I'm the same person with the same golf game. Everything's the same except my bank account.

“I'm the same player. I'd never had a top-10 finish before that, so I can't really expect to go out and start winning every week. But I certainly want to play well and win again. I don't feel any pressure, but I would like to show at some point that my winning the Open wasn't a fluke.”



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