LPGA Notebook : Caponi's Lost Ball on No. 17 Turns Threesome Into a Foursome

Times Staff Writers

Getting Mighty Crowded: Confusion reigned on the 17th fairway for a few moments Sunday. The threesome of Bonnie Lauer, Alice Miller and Patty Sheehan had just teed off and were stepping up to their approach shots when their group suddenly blossomed into a foursome.

Joining the leaders on the middle of the fairway was a straggler from the previous group, Donna Caponi, with club in hand, preparing to line up a shot. Members of the gallery following Lauer looked up and had to wonder what in the world was going on.

Caponi fell behind when she buried her second shot into the bunker on the right side of the green. And buried is the right term. Caponi's ball wound up completely covered by sand, leaving no traces of an entrance point, and leaving Caponi no clue as to its location.

Quite simply, Caponi lost her ball.

She stared into the trap and groped around for a while, receiving instructions ("To the left," "No, higher, by the lip") from spectators. No luck.

After five minutes, the maximum delay allowed by LPGA rules, Caponi was given a two-stroke penalty and forced to hit her second shot again.

So, after Lauer and Co. had teed off, Caponi met them halfway and hit another approach shot. She ended up taking a double-bogey on the hole, her third of the day, which dropped Caponi out of contention and into a six-way tie for 11th place.

After all the golfers had played through, a course marshall raked the bunker, unearthing nearly 20 feet of sand. Finally, the ball popped up and was grabbed by a fan.

For Caponi, it proved to be an especially costly souvenir.

... And Not So Crowded: Bonnie Lauer's score of 277 was not the only thing under par for the tournament. So was the attendance at Mesa Verde Country Club.

A crowd of 12,500 watched Sunday's final round, with the entire four-day event drawing 28,000. That's a considerable dropoff from the 1984 attendance total of 42,000.

Of course, the 1984 tournament had one big advantage--popular Nancy Lopez and her overflow gallery marching on through a record-setting third round and a title-clinching fourth round.

Meet The New Par: A total of six golfers did precisely that during this year's tournament.

Bettering the new par of 288 were Lauer (277), Miller (282), Lopez (285), Sheehan (286) and Donna White (287) while Kathy Baker equaled it.

Millionaires Club Update: Four golfers entered this week's tournament on the verge on breaking the $1 million barrier in career winnings. Three moved closer, but no one surpassed it.

Hollis Stacy, who tied for 23rd, won $3,259, bringing her career total to $993,546. Jan Stephenson, who tied for 29th, took home $2,474 and raised her career earnings to $961,282. And fourth-place finisher Patty Sheehan is now at $945,624 after winning $17,325 at Mesa Verde.

Sally Little is also approaching the $1 million mark ($947,195), but she came away empty-handed after failing to make the cut.

Keeping Score: Even by raising par from 71 to 72 by changing the 451-yard 10th hole from a four to a five, the tough Mesa Verde course took its toll. Only the first five finishers were under par.

But the two top players--winner Bonnie Lauer and runner-up Alice Miller--would have broken the old par, also, seven and two under, respectively.

The 10th, which returns to a par-four for women club members today, remained the easiest hole on the course throughout the tournament with 119 birdies and only 54 bogeys.

The most difficult hole was the 377-yard 17th, a dogleg right with a small green flanked by traps on both sides. The 17th produced almost as many bogeys (176) as pars (212).

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