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Published: Sunday, 7/16/2006

Lopez, gallery relish in her 'perfect' ending

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez does a little dance after chipping in for birdie on the 18th hole. She didn't make the cut, but that didn't matter as the crowd went crazy for the Farr Classic favorite. Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez does a little dance after chipping in for birdie on the 18th hole. She didn't make the cut, but that didn't matter as the crowd went crazy for the Farr Classic favorite.
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It didn't figure the cheers could get any louder for Nancy Lopez as she walked to the 18th green yesterday at Highland Meadows.

But you should have heard it a couple minutes later when she chipped in from the fringe for a birdie.

"It was almost chilling," the Hall of Famer said of the crowd's reaction. "Chipping in on the last hole was just perfect."

For the most part, her game was not. But Lopez expected a struggle in the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger, considering she was teeing it up in an LPGA Tour event for the first time in more than a year.

Lopez carded a 77 yesterday, four shots better than in the opening round, for a 16-over-par 158 total.

"Every shot was a little bit of a fight, but I tried my best on every shot and never gave up," she said. "I can be proud of that.

"I'm trying to work my way back into playing competitive golf and it wasn't going to happen in one week. I knew that. You can't be out of it for more than a year without getting into bad habits. I'm still working on things. It's not there yet.

"But I thought it was important to play in a tournament and put some pressure on my game. This was the right place to do it, to start putting myself to the test, because the golf course isn't easy. Plus, I always enjoy Toledo."

And Toledo, where Lopez has posted four second-place finishes in the Farr Classic, has always enjoyed Nancy.

About 1,000 fans were there for the finish, either in the bleachers or sky boxes around No. 18 or lining the fairway. They rose as one for a standing ovation as she climbed to the final green. Playing partners Laura Davies and Meg Mallon held back in the fairway to give Lopez the sole spotlight.

"That's respect," said Farr director Judd Silverman, who made a point of being there to thank Lopez for opting to play at the Meadows.

Her chip from the fringe, about 30 feet from the cup, caught the break, kept turning and tracking, and disappeared into the cup on the ball's final revolution.

If this proves to be Lopez's final appearance in the Farr, she left her many fans with a special moment to remember.

But the LPGA legend said Toledo may not have seen the last of her.

"I hope I'll be back," she said. "And, hopefully, I'll bring my 'A' game with me."

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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