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Published: Sunday, 8/8/2004

They're at home on the range

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Deb Richard practiced for about an hour before yesterday's round, then went out and shot a 4-under-par 67. Richard says she practices about three hours per day. Deb Richard practiced for about an hour before yesterday's round, then went out and shot a 4-under-par 67. Richard says she practices about three hours per day.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Deb Richard had an 8:02 tee time yesterday morning, so she arrived very early at Highland Meadows to work on her game.

So did Emilee Klein, who teed off a little over an hour later.

"I usually warm up for two hours prior to my tee time, which is unusual for most players," Klein said. "I practice my putting for 45 minutes to an hour, then I go hit balls for 45 more minutes and then I come back and chip, maybe hit a few more putts, and then go tee it up.

"I like that practice routine for me, but most girls probably think I'm nuts."

Richard spent only half as much time practicing before her round began.

"I will start off the day by spending 5-7 minutes putting, then 10 minutes hitting little chip shots, bump-and-run shots and some sand wedges. I will spend another 10 minutes or so hitting shots from 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. I'll probably hit six or seven shots at each yardage. I'll go to the range and I hit about 40 shots when I warm up. Then I will come back and hit a few more putts and I'm ready to go after about an hour.

"I probably hit fewer drivers when I'm practicing than almost any other player out on the LPGA Tour. My thing is, when I'm out there working on things, I'm working on my swing. It's my iron play that's so key. And if I get my swing going on my iron play, the driver's a natural follow."

Richard and Klein benefited from yesterday's early practice session. Both fired 4-under-par 67s in the third round - tying them with Lorie Kane for the low score of the day - to pull themselves back into contention at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic.

Klein had five birdies and one bogey, while Richard's bogey-free round included four birdies. Klein jumped from 36th to a tie for 12th place, while Richard went from 47th to a tie for 15th.

Not bad position, considering the two players carded identical 5-over 76s in the second round.

"Lately I've been putting in four-to-five hours practicing a day just because I want to be in contention," said Klein, a three-time winner whose best finish this season is a tie for 11th. "I had a bad second round and it was all because of bad putting. I haven't been contending lately. The way I play, I feel like I should be.

"I figure the only way I'm going to get better is if I work harder. There's some people who don't need to practice as much, and that's great. They're lucky. I'm not that kind of person. I have to work hard, but if I put in my time, it will eventually pay off, like it did today."

Richard, who played the last five holes of her second round in 4-over, has five LPGA wins to her credit, the last coming in 1997. Her best finish this year is a tie for 17th.

Like Klein, Richard also works on her game after her round is finished.

"I always practice something, whether it's short game, putting, or hitting some balls," said Richard, who has three top-four finishes in the Farr.

Richard, who practices three hours each day, said her caddie, Tom Konopacki, often gives her tips that may help her swing or her alignment.

"He's my extra set of eyes," she said. "He notices when things are amiss. He notices when things don't look like they normally look."

Tournament leader Karen Stupples, who won last week's Women's British Open at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England, hasn't practiced much this week.

She took three days off after her major championship victory on Sunday, and she didn't arrive in town until Wednesday night.

"I did absolutely nothing for three days, except hit a few shots for the TV cameras [back home]," said Stupples, who shot a 68 yesterday, good for a three-shot lead.

"I warmed up Thursday morning like I normally do for about an hour before my round - I hit balls, putted and chipped, and then I teed it up and went. I have used that same routine all three days. I haven't been doing anything in the evening after my round. I've been dead tired."

Contact Ron Musselman at: mussel@theblade.com or 419-724-6474.



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