Originally created 09/23/99

Coble's lead up to four



Augusta's Laura Coble continued to separate herself from the field in the Georgia Women's Golf Association Amateur Championship at West Lake Country Club on Wednesday.

Coble, who led by one shot after the first round, leads by four entering today's final examination. After opening with a 2-over-par 74 on Tuesday, Coble followed with a 73. The 73 included a double bogey and two three-putt greens.

Nancy Smith, 52, of Skidaway Island is the only golfer in the field within shouting distance of the 35-year-old Coble.

Smith, with trips of 76-75, is four shots back. After that, the closest golfer is Leigh Turner (79-76 -- 155) of Atlanta. She's eight back.

"Laura is playing very well," said Smith, one of Coble's playing partners in the first two rounds. "She's not making many mistakes. When she does, she doesn't let it faze her at all. She usually comes back and capitalizes on the next hole. She seems very comfortable."

If Coble does win, she will have won a triple crown of sorts. Earlier this year, she won the two biggest women's tournaments conducted by the Georgia State Golf Association, the Match Play Championship and the Top 40 Championship. This week's tournament, now in its 70th year, is conducted by the Georgia Women's Golf Association, which is not affiliated with the GSGA.

"This tournament is the most prestigious," Coble said. "It's the state amateur and it's got all that history behind it. It started in 1929. A lot of really good players have their names on that trophy."

The last time an Augustan won this tournament was in 1977, when Mitzi Edge brought the title home.

"It would be really nice to win it here," Coble said. "A lot of people have come out this week to watch and support me.

"This is a new experience for me playing in a big tournament like this at home," Coble said. "I'm able to visit with my friends from around the state and still be at home with my husband and our 5-year-old daughter."

Coble had five birdies on Wednesday, bringing her two-day total to nine at the West Lake course, which is playing extremely tough for the rest of the field.

"Nine birdies in two days is a little over what I expect out of me," Coble said.

On Wednesday, Coble started her round on the back nine and had birdies on Nos. 10, 15, 1, 5 and 7. She had bogeys on Nos. 12, 17, 2 and 9 and a double bogey on the par-3 fourth hole, where she left a shot in the bunker from an awkward lie.

On her first hole Wednesday -- the par-4 10th -- Coble nearly holed out her second shot for an eagle. It ended up 2 feet past the hole. It was the second day in a row she birdied her first hole of the day.

"I hit the ball solid today -- it was a big improvement over Tuesday," Coble said. "I'm a little frustrated with my putting. I'm not trusting my stroke enough. I'm pulling a few and pushing a few. I'm doing a good job of reading the greens, but I'm just not trusting my stroke."

Coble needed her putter 31 times on Wednesday after taking 32 putts on Tuesday.

"I haven't putted poorly, just not as well as I'd like," said Coble, who headed for the practice putting green after her round.

Smith was tied for the tournament lead with Coble after 12 holes, but then bogeyed four straight holes.

"I did it to myself," Smith said. "I've got to live with it. Making up four shots on Laura is going to be very difficult, but I'm going to try."