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For Ammaccapane, LPGA win is "huge'

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Recapturing glory can be more difficult than attaining it at all, simply because those feelings are so fresh but yet so far away.

For most of the past several seasons, Danielle Ammaccapane had her memories to fall back on, even if she was unable to produce the golf shots necessary to duplicate them.

The process became so frustrating that Ammaccapane considered giving up a sport in which she once excelled.

Today, she is glad she stayed with it.

Ammaccapane's 1-under-par 71 on Sunday at LPGA International was good enough for a one-shot victory over Michelle Estill in one of the LPGA Tour's most prestigious events.

Of course, a victory anywhere would have been nice, but to do it in the $1-million Mercury Titleholders Championship meant even more.

"To have won one of our biggest tournaments twice all I can say is "I'm back,' " said Ammaccapane, who won the event in 1992 when it was played in Tallahassee. "It feels good. It feels real good. This is huge. You can't describe it. It does a lot."

Ammaccapane finished the 72-hole tournament at 276, 12 under par, one shot ahead of Estill, who closed with 69 and was the only player in the top 10 to shoot in the 60s.

Annika Sorenstam, tied for the lead with Ammaccapane and Carin Koch starting the day, shot 73 and finished third. Koch had 74 and finished fourth.

"It was a tough day for me," said Sorenstam, who has seven top-10 finishes in as many starts but no victories this year. "Danielle was real steady. Every time I turned around, she was in the fairway."

It was Ammaccapane's sixth career victory, and the $150,000 first-place check moved her to eighth on the LPGA money list. There are other perks, such as an exemption into the U.S. Women's Open and next year's Dinah Shore.

But the satisfaction of winning again is better than all of that.

"There was a point when my confidence was real low," said Ammaccapane, 32, who despite a victory last year in Minneapolis said she was still struggling. "I needed to build it up at the beginning of this year. I needed to take baby steps. I just wanted to make the cut, get some confidence. Take it one thing at a time. As the tournaments went on, I get better and better."

She did it Sunday despite not playing her best. She had to get up and down for par on the first three holes and hit just nine greens in regulation. But Ammaccapane needed just 26 putts. She birdied the fifth and seventh holes and had a two-shot lead at the par-4 16th when a three-putt bogey left her just one in front. But she parred in for the victory.

Ammaccapane had an excellent amateur career, winning an NCAA individual title in 1985 while at Arizona State and the 1987 Pac-10 title. After joining the LPGA Tour, she was ranked among the top-10 money winners from 1990-92, and during that time she won four of her six LPGA Tour titles.

But after the 1992 season, when she won three times and earned $513,639 to finish third on the money list, she slipped to 28th in earnings in 1993 and 76th in 1994.

Part of her problems were attributed to a serious accident when she fell off a horse. She also tried to change her game to become a better player, thinking she needed to hit the ball farther to compete with the game's best _ even though she had already proved she could do so.

"I went through a lot of frustrations," she said. "At times, I didn't want to play anymore. I could have quit, but I'm not a quitter. There's a million things you can do when you struggle. You have to fight and get through it. It's part of it.

"I feel that I'm a better person now that I've struggled through it. I know I'm a better golfer. I can still play. I would have quit if I couldn't, but something in your heart tells you it's not time to go."