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Turner Searches for Lost Art : Golf: After a three-year slide, she tries to regain the form that made her the LPGA’s top money winner in 1988.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sherri Turner had that one great year. Top of the money list. Back-to-back tournament victories. A round of 63 that still stands as the best of her nine-year career.

That was 1988. It seems like a very long time ago.

Last year, she made $25,153. There were 114 women on the tour who made more.

“It’s been real hard, because I’ve tried to figure out what happened,” said Turner, who led the LPGA in earnings four years ago with $350,851.

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“One of the players was asking me, ‘Do you think it’s more difficult to accept when you have a great year and never have one again, or to never have one?’ I’m going to say it’s more difficult to have been there and not be able to get back. You know you can do it. Everybody out here believes in themselves, but to actually have done it, that’s a big difference. It’s real hard to accept.”

Turner’s best finish this season is a tie for 15th. But with two holes left in the second round of the Los Coyotes LPGA Classic on Friday, she was in a three-way tie for the lead at seven-under par.

A bogey on No. 17--she missed a three-foot putt--and a double bogey on No. 18--her third shot found water--left her in a pack two strokes off the lead at four under.

“What can I say, I’m mad at myself,” said Turner, who finished with a 72 Friday after shooting a 68 in the first round. “But I have to be happy with where I am. I haven’t played well all year.”

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She birdied her first two holes Friday and made the turn in great shape. But as the afternoon grew hotter, she began to perspire and feel faint.

A metal bracelet on her wrist identifies Turner as a diabetic. Twice a day, she takes insulin. On the course, she resorts to the hard candies she keeps stuffed in her bag.

“There are no timeouts. You kind of keep walking,” Turner said. “Probably seven or eight holes, I was sucking hard candy. I had four or five pieces. That’s a lot. You try to avoid that.”

The candy kept her strength up, but Turner faltered down the stretch along with a host of others. Still, she’s in contention with two days left to wedge her way into her first victory since 1989. One win could ease the frustration of not understanding what has gone wrong with her career.

“Tremendously,” she said. “Yes, definitely.”

Turner has turned the theories over in her head a thousand times. What changed?

“When you play that well, your expectations change,” she said. “I got extremely hard on myself. I’d go out and make a bogey, and instead of brushing it off, I found I was getting upset at myself. Then I’d go three, four holes and make two bogeys.”

The confidence goes, and the putting follows.

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“In ’88, I made a lot more putts,” she said. “The more you make, the more confidence you have. The more confidence you have, the more you make.”

As the slide consumed her, she struggled with herself.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times if you shoot a 77, you think that’s the person you are,” Turner said. “You feel down and frustrated, you lose your self-confidence and don’t feel good about yourself. That’s kind of what happened to me. I allowed myself to become a number. That’s not good.

“You think that’s how people see you. It’s not just people who don’t know you. Sometimes it’s the people who know you and care about you most. All they see is the score in the L.A. Times or USA Today. They have no idea that you might have played the front nine one-under. All they know is what I shot. But what I shot on the golf course has nothing to do with the person I am.

“It’s so hard to make myself believe that.”


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