Originally created 06/30/03

Stanford wins first LPGA title at ShopRite



GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Angela Stanford set a torrid pace early and played error-free golf the rest of the way Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic, her first championship as a pro.

Stanford, who led or shared the lead after all three rounds, shot a 6-under par 65 to finish at 16-under par, three shots ahead of late-surging Becky Morgan.

Annika Sorenstam, who came into the final round four shots off the pace, was unable to mount a challenge, finishing with a 72.

"I believe if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best," Stanford said.

She did - and then some, besting a 144-player field that included former winners Sorenstam and Juli Inkster, as well as 13-year-old phenom Michelle Wie.

The 25-year-old Stanford, of Saginaw, Texas, is in her third year on tour but hadn't won an event. Her best finish last year was second.

She shared the opening-round lead with Laura Diaz and Kris Lindstrom, but moved out to a one-shot lead heading into the final round.

And she may have saved her best for last. Starting the round at 10 under, she picked up four strokes on the first three holes, sinking a tricky 5-foot downhill putt on No. 1, a 30-footer for birdie at No. 2 and making eagle on the par-5, 475-yard third hole.

Then, with Morgan and Lorie Kane charging up the leaderboard, Stanford carded 12 consecutive pars before sealing her victory with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.

Even when she got in trouble, she stayed calm. On No. 5, a 302-yard par-4, she hit into a sand trap but still managed to save par after hitting a nifty wedge.

"I noticed toward the end that they were creeping up on me," Stanford said. "I thought 'Hmm, maybe I should get back to playing one shot at a time."

After her final putt, she raised her hands, looked to the sky and then hugged her caddie before trotting over to the bleachers surrounding No. 18 and jubilantly throwing her ball into the cheering crowd at the Seaview Marriott Resort.

She said she didn't expect to win so early in her pro career, but realized early in Sunday's round that that's what she was headed for.

"I was in tears on the first tee just because I knew it was happening," she said.

Her purse was $195,000 in the $1.3 million event, vaulting her from 46th on the LPGA money list to 14th.

Morgan, who was playing ahead of Stanford, birdied three of her last four holes to finish at 13 under.

Kane, who shot a 66 Sunday, finished four strokes back, as did two-time Classic champion Inkster.

Wie, who with Sorenstam drew the biggest crowds in the ShopRite, continued to struggle with her putting, shooting a 72 to finish at 2 over.

"I think I played terrible, for me," said Wie, who last weekend become the youngest winner of a USGA event for adults when she captured the U.S. Amateur Women's Public Links. "I guess I should have made a lot more birdies. I should have hit my fairways. I should have hit my wedges better."