Originally created 09/24/01

Runners-up left wondering what might have been



Two yards separated Emilee Klein from renewed hope, a chance to roll in one last putt and give herself a shot to win her first championship in five years.

Klein rose to the occasion, sinking that six-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to close out the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship with a 4-under-par 68 on Sunday, which put her in the clubhouse sitting just one shot off the lead at 9-under for the tournament.

"I did think I had a chance," said Klein, the leader after half the field finished their second round on Friday. "Anything's possible in this game.

"But I also knew that the girls who were out there are good players. All I could do was put some pressure on them and that's what I did."

In the end, Tina Fischer withstood the pressure to win the inaugural Asahi Ryokuken title, leaving Klein and fellow runner-up Tracy Hanson wondering what might have been.

"Well, I felt like I was a little flat on the front nine," said Klein, who began her final round inauspiciously with a bogey on No. 1. "You know, having yesterday off didn't help because you kind of lose that momentum. On the back nine, I finally started to charge a bit. I actually lipped out (putts) on 15, 16 and 17 from about 10, 12 feet, I could have been a lot lower than I was today."

While Klein's hopes of winning reached a crescendo on the 54th hole, it was a different story for Hanson down the stretch.

Hanson birdied the par-5 6th hole Sunday to go to 10-under-par for the tournament, then grabbed the lead with a birdie on the par-5 12th to move to 11-under.

But as quickly as she gathered steam to make a run at her first career title, those hopes evaporated with consecutive bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15.

On the par-4 14th, Hanson hit her approach over the green and could not get up and down, chipping to eight feet and then missing her par putt.

She then missed a five-foot putt for par on the par-3 15th hole, and that all but sealed her fate. She wound up with a 1-under 71 and tied for second with Klein.

"At that point, I figured if I could get one more birdie coming in, I had a chance, and 17 and 18 are good finishing holes" said Hanson, who had only two top-10 finishes this year coming in. "I had a couple of chances. I just didn't get it in the hole."

Klein also bemoaned the shots she left on the course, but said she had no regrets.

"I'm happy with the way I played," she said. "I played solid and I did the best I could. That's all I can ask for."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.