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Published: Monday, 7/17/2006

Farr Classic notebook: Experience on Gulbis' bag

BY MAUREEN FULTON
AND MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS
Natalie Gulbis is seeking her first LPGA Tour win, but caddie Greg Sheridan's resume includes a Farr victory in 1984. Natalie Gulbis is seeking her first LPGA Tour win, but caddie Greg Sheridan's resume includes a Farr victory in 1984.
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Although Natalie Gulbis was trying to capture her first LPGA Tour win at Highland Meadows yesterday, she did have some veteran experience on her side.

Gulbis' caddie for the past two years, Greg Sheridan, carried for the first winner of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger - Lauri Peterson (now Merten) in 1984.

"I think we beat [Nancy] Lopez by one on the last hole," Sheridan said.

Sheridan has caddied for many top LPGA stars, including Beth Daniel, Cristie Kerr and Kathy Whitworth. Gulbis, who lost in a three-hole playoff to Mi Hyun Kim, said his knowledge is useful to her as she tries to break through for her first professional victory.

"He's great, he's always great," Gulbis said. "I never have to worry about him, he's so easy."

It was Gulbis' highest career finish in her fifth year on the tour. She earned $106,155 for finishing second. When Peterson won in '84, she took home $26,250, minus her caddie's share, of course.

"We'll keep being in this position and we'll get it soon," Sheridan said. "We had a lot of good chances."

ONE BOGEY, FEW BIRDIES: Annika Sorenstam, the tour's top player in recent years, posted only one bogey in the 72-hole Farr Classic. But Sorenstam also had only 10 birdies and finished ninth at 9-under.

"I was a little disappointed because I thought I played really well all week," Sorenstam said. "I only made one bogey. I think that is a personal record for me. But I didn't make enough birdies to make a run at it."

Sorenstam's only bogey came on the par-3, No. 2 hole in round three.

Sorenstam, who made her first appearance at the Farr since 2001, won here in 2000.

"I really like it here. I seem to play well here. I just wish I had made more birdies," Sorenstam said. "I had a lot of lips that didn't go in. I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I had a lot of opportunities, I just didn't score as well."

RANKIN REELS: Reilley Rankin was in contention to claim her first tournament title all week at the Farr.

Rankin was tied for the lead after Saturday's play and started the final round just one stroke behind the leaders. Rankin carded four birdies, but also posted three bogeys in the final round. She ended up carding a 1-under-par 70 to finish fifth.

"I hit a lot of good putts, but I couldn't get any putts to drop," said Rankin, who had a 66 in the first round and then back-to-back 68s. "I did make a few mistakes. I wasn't chipping how I like."

Rankin, 27, has not won yet in her third year on tour but was within a few shots of the leader throughout the tournament. She ended up taking fifth and earned $47,949.

"It's been fun from the get-go," Rankin said. "I've been in good position since Thursday. I learned a lot this week."

LOCAL CONNECTION: James Geissler, a 59-year-old Sylvanian, caddied for veteran Barb Mucha yesterday. Mucha finished tied for 32nd at 3-under.

"She had a great week. She made the cut for the first time this year. So it had to be the caddie," Geissler joked after Mucha's even round yesterday.

Mucha, who has five tournament victories since she joined the tour in 1987, said her personality and decision-making meshed well with Geissler.

"It was fate," Mucha said. "We really gelled. We agreed on a lot of decisions."

Geissler, who also has caddied at the U.S. Senior Open, said he hopes to caddy for Mucha at least one more time this season.

"I love this job," he said. "There are so many nice ladies out here."

HECTIC HOLES: Hole No. 1 was the most difficult this week at the Farr.

Only 47 birdies were carded there and 123 bogeys were posted. The hole also produced 285 par scores.

The eighth hole was the easiest with 104 birdies, 344 pars and 17 bogeys.

The back nine was a bit more difficult than the front nine. It featured six of the eight holes that produced the highest scores. It included the third most difficult (No. 12) as well as the fifth (No. 11), sixth (No. 10), seventh (No. 16) and eighth (No. 13) toughest holes.

The third hole, which is normally fairly difficult, produced the second lowest scores of the tournament. Due to the heavy rains and flooded creek, the hole was shortened from 380 yards to 259 because the normal tees were unplayable.

Over the first two rounds when it was played at its normal length, 46 birdies were carded. But over the last two rounds, it produced 66 birdies and one eagle.

SPECIAL GUEST: Meg Mallon got a big lift at the turn. After making a nice up-and-down to save par at No. 9, she was able to walk off and greet her mother, Marian, who was waiting at the side of the green in a wheelchair.

The two exchanged a long kiss and Meg rubbed the Jamie Farr Classic cap atop her mom's head.

Mallon's brothers, John and Paul, and John's daughter, Meghan, brought Marian to Highland Meadows for a while Friday and again yesterday. John said it was the first time his mother had seen Meg play in person since suffering a brain hemorrhage in December, 2001.

"This was one of her wishes, to be back on a golf course with Meg," Meghan said.

In a very touching scene later at No. 18, as Meg approached the green, Marian tried to join the crowd in applauding her daughter. With use of just her left hand, she made a clapping motion. One of her sons slid his hand under hers to complete the act.

GOING LOW: Fourteen players in the Farr field finished four rounds without posting a score above par of 71.

That included Candie Kung, who finished 16 shots behind the best score and in a tie for 39th place. Kung compiled rounds of 71-70-70-71.



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