Laura Diaz knew she had the game and the poise to win. She just didn't have the trophies to prove it.
That changed Sunday, when Diaz, a month into her fourth season on the LPGA Tour, beat Hall of Famer Juli Inkster by a stroke in the Welch's-Circle K Classic.
Diaz sank a 3-foot birdie putt on the last hole to cap 4-under-par 68 and collect her first professional title with 18-under 270. Inkster, the 1999 champion, led after the second and third rounds, but shot a closing 71.
"I think it's great," Diaz said. "But I won against 143 other people, and I won against the golf course. You know, 144 players teed it up at the beginning of the week, and I took the least number of strokes."
Diaz finished second four times and had eight other top-10 finishes last season _ good enough to win $751,466 and place ninth on the money list _ all without a victory.
"As much as it's been talked about _ all of my seconds, no victories yet _ I'm relieved," she said. "The question, "When are you going to get a victory?' I got a victory. The question is over."
Inkster followed birdies on Nos. 3 and 10 with bogeys on Nos. 4 and 11, and squandered a birdie at the sixth when she made bogey on No. 8.
The trend cost her the win.
"I take pride in being a pretty good front-runner, and the last two days I just couldn't get anything going on that front side," Inkster said. "I felt like I was always trying to kick-start myself, so I'm very disappointed in that."
Grace Park matched the lowest round of the tournament with 64 and tied Kelly Robbins, who shot 67, for third place at 273.
"I had a dream that I won, so I thought I would have a miracle," Park said. "I thought I would shoot 62 or 82. I didn't know what to expect."
Karrie Webb shot 67 and amateur Lorena Ochoa of the University of Arizona, a Mexican national champion who has won her past six college tournaments, shot 68 to finish four shots off the lead.
The five-player group at 275 included Annika Sorenstam, the two-time defending champion, and 1988 Tucson winner Laura Davies.
With the 41-year-old Inkster and the 26-year-old Diaz in the final twosome, the last six holes resembled match play.
Diaz tied Inkster, who has won six majors and 20 other titles, at 16 under with a birdie on No. 12.
Diaz took the lead for good on the 490-yard, 15th hole. She hit a 9-iron to within 6 feet on her third shot and made the birdie putt.
Diaz never led by more than one shot down the stretch.
On No. 17, Inkster's birdie attempt rimmed the cup and she did a pratfall in astonishment. Then Diaz nervelessly saved par with a 6-footer to set up the dramatic finish.
Inkster hit her second shot over the pond that fronts the green on the par-5 18th above the pin 20 feet from the hole. She two-putted, sinking an 18-inch putt for her fourth birdie _ and first in eight holes.
Meanwhile, Diaz misplayed a 6-iron on her second shot. The ball missed a bunker, kicked off a slope and stopped 30 feet from the cup, on a shelf of the two-tiered green below the flagstick.
Diaz completed a two-putt birdie to clinch the win, avoiding a playoff for first place for the first time in three LPGA events this year.
There was a two-shot swing on the fourth hole. Dorothy Delasin, who carded 73 and finished in the group at 275, birdied the hole, and Inkster bogeyed, reducing her lead to one shot.
Delasin, the tour's 2000 rookie of the year, also birdied the fifth hole to reach 16 under and move into a tie with Inkster. Delasin bogeyed the sixth to give back her share of the lead and was never a factor again.
Diaz went five holes without a par, three-putting for bogey on the first two _ her only bogeys of the tournament _ before running off three birdies with putts of 9, 15 and 9 feet.
On the 12th hole, she lofted a wedge to within 3 feet for another birdie and moved into a tie with Inkster, who had bogeyed No. 11, a 187-yard par-3, for the third time in four rounds.
After that, it was head-to-head competition between the upcoming star and the veteran.
MADEIRA ISLAND OPEN: Diego Borrego of Spain overcame swirling wind to shoot 3-under-par 69 and win in Madeira, Portugal.
Borrego finished at 7-under 281 in winning his second European PGA Tour title, his first since 1996. Borrego almost lost his tour card in 2001.
Ivo Giner of Spain (73) and Maarten Lafeber of the Netherlands (73) shared second at 282.
As scores ballooned in the gusts, Borrego did not drop a shot after three-putting for a first-hole bogey.
"I just did fairways, greens and two-putts," Borrego said. "When I got to the 12th I told my caddie, "Now is the moment, now is my good chance to win.' "
Giner could have forced a playoff with a par on the 18th but came up short with his 8-iron and missed a 4-foot putt.
"It hurts," he said.
Roger Winchester of England (67) was fourth at 283 and Charley Hoffman of the United States (71) and Santiago Luna of Spain (70) were at 284.