By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer
VIENNA, Ohio (AP) - Dorothy Delasin has an advantage that surpasses being the two-time defending champion at the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
"This will be my first time defending on the same course," she said. "That makes it new -- in addition to going for the three-peat."
Horses for courses? Delasin has been a thoroughbred no matter what the track is when the tour comes to the Youngstown area.
This year she returns to Squaw Creek Country Club, where she won a year ago. The year before that, she won her first professional tournament when the event was held at Avalon Lakes.
Only seven players in LPGA history have won the same event at least three years in a row. The list includes Laura Davies, who is the only player to have won the same tournament four consecutive times (Standard Register Ping, 1994-97). The other multiple winners include some of the biggest names in the history of women's golf: Karrie Webb, Annika Sorenstam, Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie and Louise Suggs.
Delasin, whose 2000 victory at the Giant Eagle was her first as a pro, said she feels no more pressure as the defending champion than if she were just one of the other 143 players in the 54-hole tournament that tees off Friday.
"It's pretty much you and the golf course," she said.
Two years ago, Delasin won the Giant Eagle by beating veteran Pat Hurst in a playoff.
"I remember the shots that got me into the playoff," Delasin said. "I birdied the last hole to get into it and then we both parred the first playoff hole. On the next one, she made bogey and I made par. That was the longest 3-footer I've ever made. The hole was like penny-sized."
Delasin began the last round four shots behind leader Se Ri Pak but birdied four of the first eight holes and then added birdies at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes. Her closing 7-under-par 65 left her at 13-under 203 and a shot ahead of Tammie Green and two better than Pak, who finished with a 71.
Five of the top eight on the LPGA money list -- and 13 of the top 20 -- are entered in the Giant Eagle this week.
Rachel Teske, who held off rookie Beth Bauer and Webb to win last week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic, drew an early first-round tee time.
"In a three-round tournament you like to get out early in the first round," she said. "There is an advantage to teeing off so early in the morning because the green are softer. In the morning, it's more target golf and in the afternoon the greens will be firmer -- especially with how hot it is in the afternoon."
The field also includes two-time Giant Eagle winners Green (1994, 1997) and Michelle McGann (1995, 1996), and past champions Beth Daniel and Nancy Lopez.
Sixteen-year-old amateur Naree Song Wongluekiet will play in the event on a sponsor's invitation.
The tournament serves as the final U.S.-based qualifier for the tour's final major of the year, the Women's British Open at Turnberry on Aug. 8-11.
Delasin said she is starting to get her game in gear -- just in time for the Giant Eagle, of course.
"I really start playing better by the end of the summer," Delasin said. "I wish it would start toward the beginning of the year."
When she won for the first time, she had no sponsors on her bag, shirt or visor. She decorated her golf ball with smiley faces and traveled with her parents.
Much has changed for her in the past two years. Now she wears tops sporting the name of a Hawaiian golf resort, among her sponsors. She also has moved out and is on her own.
"Now I've got my own place and I'm learning a lot," she said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)