Golf: Dassu's nerves hold out

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THE winner of the Ford Classic was almost ready for a permanent pit stop. Federica Dassu, born in Milan 36 years ago, is prematurely grey from nervous exhaustion, a condition which particularly manifests itself on the greens. Yesterday she managed to keep her head, just, as all around her lost theirs. She won pounds 10,500 and managed to cut several corners to become a member of the Woburn Golf and Country Club.

Dassu shot a three-under-par 71 in the final round and that was sufficient to give her an improbable one-stroke victory over the young Swede, Annika Sorenstam. Sorenstam led by two strokes going into the fourth round, and by four from Dassu, and when she birdied two of the first three holes she seemed to have the tournament in the palm of her hand.

At that point Sorenstam, 22, was 10 under par. By the 13th hole she had slumped to four under. Meanwhile Dassu, playing in front, had made ground, courtesy of a series of putts from 18 feet at the third, 20 feet at the fourth and around 75 feet at the eighth. By the time Dassu came to the 15th she saw her name at the top of the leaderboard.

Dassu owns a flat at Woburn Sands and her request to use the facilities at the Woburn club was denied. Alex Hay, the managing director, said that if she applied for membership it would be duly considered. It is amazing what a win can do. Dassu met Lord Tavistock, the estate owner, in the clubhouse last night and he immediately granted her membership. What waiting list?

Dassu hit a terrific four-wood approach to within 15 feet at the 15th. Although she missed the eagle she got the birdie to go seven under and somehow held on to that lead.

'OK, if you miss this one,' she said to herself, referring to the second putt on the 15th, 'you stop playing golf.' She has similar thoughts every winter. 'My putting has been very bad and I get so nervous I can't breathe.'

Sorenstam dropped four strokes in three holes from the 11th but secured second place with birdies at the 14th and 15th. 'It's an experience under my belt,' she said. Helen Wadsworth, of Wales, earned pounds 3,780 for fourth place. 'It will pay for my second-hand Ford Sierra,' Wadsworth said. In the Cinderella existence of the women players, Wadsworth returned from a trip abroad earlier this month to find that her freebie Skoda had been reclaimed by the garage.

FORD WOMEN'S CLASSIC (Woburn) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 289 F Dassu (It) 72 73 73 71. 290 A Sorenstam (Swe) 71 72 71 76. 291 L Maritz (SA) 75 72 72 72. 292 H Wadsworth 72 70 74 76. 293 L Davies 76 74 69 74; K Lunn (Aus) 75 71 73 74; R Lautens (Swit) 73 71 72 77. 295 G Stewart 76 75 76 68; A Nicholas 76 74 71 74; T Johnson 71 72 75 77. 296 C Panton- Lewis 77 73 71 75. 297 T Yarwood 72 75 78 72; M-L de Lorenzi (Fr) 76 74 73 74; K Parker (US) 75 75 73 74; D Reid 71 72 73 81. 298 A Shapcott 76 73 75 74; S Moon (US) 73 74 75 76; J Hill (Zim) 74 73 74 77; V Palli (Fr) 73 69 78 78.