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Scranton/Johnson Win Three Team Playoff

Aug 6, 2007

Legends Tour’s BJ’s Charity Championship - WITH A TWIST: Scranton, Johnson win three-team playoff at BJ’s

By NATE CROSSMAN
For The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY - The Legends Tour’s BJ’s Charity Championship tournament at Granite Links Golf Club doesn’t do conventional endings.

Two years ago the teams of Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan and Jan Stephenson and Cindy Rarick traded birdies for five playoff holes before they ran out of daylight and were declared co-champions of the two-day tournament. Last year Nancy Scranton and Christa Johnson fired a tournament-record 14-under-par 58 in the final round scramble format to beat Sherri Turner and Cindy Figg-Currier by one stroke, with Scranton rolling in an eagle putt on the final hole.

Yesterday the BJ’s revisited the playoff drama of 2005, but with a twist; three teams participated. Scranton and Johnson, Allison Finney and Debbie Massey and Colleen Walker and Barb Mucha all completed regulation at 17-under. Walker and Mucha bowed out after the first playoff hole - the par-5, 480-yard 18th - leaving two teams. They both birdied the 18th again, so tournament officials extended the hole to 534 yards. Although the extra yardage didn’t present much of an obstacle, it was just enough. Finney and Massey both missed their 10-foot putt and Johnson rolled in a four-footer to give her and Scranton their second BJ’s title and the $100,000 check that goes with it.

‘‘Last year, it felt like every hole you had to birdie,’’ Johnson said.

‘‘This year was different (conditions), but every hole you had to birdie.’’

Scranton and Johnson, who are both 46, almost putted away an opportunity to defend their title on the final two holes. They both missed a four-foot putt on 17, then three-putted 18. Scranton hit her second shot off the left edge of the green, but they chose to use Johnson’s, which landed on the green but far to the right.

‘‘If it was in the fairway we might have considered it,’’ Scranton said about her shot. ‘‘We didn’t look at it that closely; we just assumed the other one was much better.’’

A birdie on either of those holes would have ensured them the title.

Instead, they had to wait near the scorer’s tent and watch the final group. Although it appeared that Walker, 51, and Mucha, 46, would force a playoff with a birdie, Finney, 49, and Massey, 57, made it in first when Finney chipped in for eagle, which she also did on the ninth.

‘‘After she hit a great drive on 18, I said, ‘you know, if we make eagle we’ve got a chance to win this thing,’’’ Massey said.

Walker made an eight-foot putt and the three teams drove back down the 18th fairway.

All three teams had birdie opportunities on the first playoff hole, but only Scranton and Johnson and Finney and Massey could deliver.

Walker missed her putt then Mucha came up short, eliciting an appreciative cheer from the gallery and hugs from the other two teams.

Finney and Massey appeared like they’d be the next to go when their second shot landed more than 70 feet behind the hole, on the fringe, but Finney chipped to within two feet and both teams made their putts to force a third playoff hole.

As they did in 2005, tournament officials moved the players back for the third playoff hole, to the furthest tee box. That changed the strategy.

‘‘It made it not reachable,’’ said Johnson, who is one of the longest hitters on The Legends Tour. ‘‘Maybe if I hit a good drive, but I didn’t. Even if I did, you’re hitting a 3-wood into an elevated green, and there’s no way to stop it.’’

Scranton, however, made up for it by landing a wedge to within 10 feet, while Finney and Massey came up 15 feet short of the pin. Finney and Massey both missed, with Finney’s ball needing one more revolution to find the bottom of the cup. Johnson made her 10-footer for the win, swapping places with Scranton, who made the winning putt last year.

When Johnson’s putt rolled in a cheer erupted from the gallery, which included several Legends Tour players who stayed to watch the dramatic conclusion.

For Finney and Massey, a moral victory was buried in their playoff loss.

‘‘To stay competitive with two tour players and be there at the end with a chance to win?’’ Massey said. ‘‘What can you say? We’re proud of ourselves.’’

For Scranton and Johnson, however, who still play on the LPGA Tour, it was validation that they can still perform at a high level. They also proved to themselves that they can win in a variety of ways.

‘‘We didn’t play nearly as well, in terms of ball striking, as we did last year,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘It’s just so exciting the way it all came together. We were only 1-under through the first nine yesterday, but we really rallied on the back.’’

No history buff

Elaine Crosby apparently isn’t up on her BJ’s history. After her and teammate Michelle Estill carded a 13-under 58 to take the lead temporarily, Crosby, 49, said she was excited about the score because she thought it was the first time any team had broken 60. A reporter, however, informed her that two teams broke 60 last year, to which Crosby responded: ‘‘Well, darn it.’’

Although it wasn’t a record breaker, Crosby and Estill’s score was outstanding. They birdied eight of the final nine holes, finishing fourth. It was even better considering they only shot 3-under on Saturday.

‘‘(Saturday) Michelle had five birdies, and I didn’t have any,’’ Crosby said. ‘‘Today we ham and egged it. I’m kind of on the short side and she’s kind of on the long side, and we’re comfortable together because we’ve played a lot of golf.’’

Crosby played with Legends Tour founder Jane Blaylock last year. But once Estill, 45, became eligible for the Legends, Crosby asked Blaylock if she could switch partners. Blaylock played with Mieko Nomura.

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, August 06, 2007

Granite Links Golf Club

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Phone: 617-689-1900
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