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Bradley Rings Up 30th Win, Makes the Hall of Fame

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bell on the front porch of the Bradley residence in Westford, Mass., rang loud and clear for the 30th time Sunday night.

Pat Bradley, who became the first woman golf professional to win $4 million last week, became the 12th to make the LPGA Hall of Fame when she held off rookie Michelle Estill to win the MBS LPGA tournament Sunday at the Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park.

When Bradley left home 18 years ago to become a professional golfer, it became a tradition for her to phone her mother after each win, after which the bell clanged so everyone in Waterford could celebrate.

“I found a cellular phone and called as soon as I recovered from the champagne bath the players gave me,” Bradley said. “Getting in the Hall of Fame has been a driving force in my life and my career, and I feel greatly relieved to have made it.”

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The win was Bradley’s 30th as a professional and coupled with her six major championships, made her an automatic member of the Hall of Fame.

The former ski instructor shot a final round 68 for an 11-under-par 277 for 72 holes over the 6,351-yard course. Estill, who birdied four of the last six holes, finished 66-278.

Bradley had to make a three-foot putt on the final hole for a bogey six to earn the victory and first prize of $52,500. After Bradley holed the winning putt, one of the first people to greet her with a bearhug was Amy Alcott, who, like Bradley, was also seeking LPGA win No. 30.

Then came the champagne bath, led by Nancy Lopez, the most recent member of the Hall of Fame. Lopez, winner of the two previous MBS tournaments at Los Coyotes, missed defending her championship because she is expecting her third child in November.

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Alcott shot a 71-281 to finish tied for fourth, one shot behind Dottie Mochrie’s 70-280. Also at 281 were Brandie Burton (72), Judy Dickinson (73) and Meg Mallon (73).

Lisa Walters, the 54-hole leader who has never won a tournament, held together through the front nine with nine consecutive pars, but fell apart once Bradley applied the pressure. Walters dropped five strokes to par for a 41 and tied for 11th place at 284.

“It was the first time I had ever been leading going into the final round and I was nervous,” Walters said. “I hung in there for quite a while, but then all of a sudden--bang, bang, bang--I woke up with three bogeys in a row and I was out of it.”

Bradley was apparently nervous, too, as she began chain-smoking down the final nine holes. It seemed to help, as she birdied three of the first five holes to pull three shots ahead. When she knocked in a 20-foot putt from the fringe of the 17th green, she pumped her fist as her long quest appeared to be over.

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She did not know that Estill had suddenly caught fire.

“I thought my challengers were behind me,” Bradley said. “I got a little anxious on the 18th tee and put my tee shot in the left bunker. I asked my caddie where I stood, and he said I had a two-shot lead, so I laid out and then hit a six-iron short of the water. I was so pumped up that the six-iron went a lot farther than I anticipated. I was looking for a full wedge fourth shot and maybe a putt for par, but I was between clubs.”

Her wedge barely cleared a bunker and stopped short of the green, leaving a little chip that she left short of the hole.

“I didn’t realize I had won when I made that putt,” she said after holing out for her only bogey. “Then Amy came running up, and Nancy hit me with the champagne. That was the first time I’ve ever had a champagne bath.”

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Bradley won her first tournament in 1976, the Girl Talk Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y. Her biggest season, before this year, was in 1986 when she won five tournaments, including three majors. Her career appeared to be over in 1988, when she won only $15,000 and ranked 109th on the money list, but it was discovered that she was suffering from hyperthyroidism and she recovered the following season.

Sunday’s victory was her fourth this year and increased her earnings to a career-best $746,527.

Estill’s finish moved her ahead of Burton, the teen-age phenom from Rialto who quit Arizona State after her freshman year to turn pro, in rookie earnings. Estill, who played on the European tour last year after graduating from Arizona State, won $32,375 as runner-up, giving her $167,749 for the season. Burton has $164,751.

“Playing in Europe helped my game 100%,” Estill said. “Playing under different conditions, on different types of course, helped me learn how to adapt. I learned things you can’t learn by playing in Arizona all the time.”

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Estill lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she worked for three years for a mortgage company before enrolling at Arizona State.


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