Stupples sets record in first title win

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Britain's Karen Stupples claimed her first professional victory when she won the Welch's/Fry's Championship here with a record-breaking performance at the weekend. Stupples registered the best 72-hole score in LPGA Tour history, a 22-under-par 258, after her final round 63 won the title late on Sunday.

Britain's Karen Stupples claimed her first professional victory when she won the Welch's/Fry's Championship here with a record-breaking performance at the weekend. Stupples registered the best 72-hole score in LPGA Tour history, a 22-under-par 258, after her final round 63 won the title late on Sunday.

The 30-year-old from Kent, who has spent all her five years as a professional in the United States, opened her sixth season on the LPGA Tour by beating Grace Park and Jung Yeon Lee by five shots. "This is a dream come true," Stupples said after her achievement. "At the moment, I am finding it hard to even breathe, but all the hard work has paid off."

Stupples had finished second to the Swedish world No 1, Annika Sorenstam, in the ANZ Australian Ladies' Masters two weeks previously, and Sunday's win was further confirmation that she is now one of Britain's best golfers. "I was never really sure if I could do it, if I had it in me," she said.

The experience of finishing second to Sorenstam in Australia stood her in good stead, she said: "You learn a lot playing with Annika. She is an unbelievable competitor and somebody who will never give up. I learned a lot from that."

One shot ahead overnight, Stupples completed six birdies and an eagle in her final round. Lee hit a 66, while Park dropped a shot at the last hole to finish with a round of 67.

Wendy Doolan, who missed this year's cut, set the LPGA Tour record of 259 here last year when the event was played on the 6,176-yard Dell Urich layout. Sorenstam's 261 in 2001 at Moon Valley in Phoenix remains the tour's best for a par-72 course.

Laura Davies, who was joint second overnight with Park and just one shot behind Stupples, had a hugely disappointing final round. She made only one birdie as her putting failed her and had to settle for a 71 and a share of fifth place on 13 under.

Stupples, who led the tournament from the 17th hole of the second round, had made a nervous start to her final round, dropping a shot at the opening hole. But she bounced back to make birdies at the second and third. At the 13th she holed a 35-foot putt to claim an eagle and turn a one-shot lead into a three-shot lead and take control.

"After the poor start, making a birdie at the second was really important and got the momentum going again," Stupples said. "But the 13th was the real big swing and that helped me relax."

After a birdie at the 16th, Stupples' emotions overwhelmed her on the 18th green, as she waited for Davies and Park to putt out. "I knew that I played a good game of golf, but I didn't know if it would be good enough," Stupples said. "It's realising a dream."

Becky Morgan, from Wales, closed with a 64 for a nine-under 271 and was the third Briton to finish in the top 12.

USLPGA WELCH'S/FRY'S CHAMPIONSHIP (Tucson, Arizona): Leading final scores (US unless stated): 258 K Stupples (GB) 63 66 66 63. 263 G Park (S Kor) 69 66 61 67; Jung Yeon Lee (S Kor) 60 70 67 66. 266 S Prammanasudh 66 69 63 68. 267 L Davies (GB) 65 65 66 71; Aree Song (S Kor) 71 64 65 67; Shi Hyun Ahn (S Kor) 69 69 66 63. 268 Mi Hyun Kim (S Kor) 67 70 65 66; Se Ri Pak (S Kor) 67 70 64 67; Seol An Jeon (S Kor) 65 67 67 69. 269 P Hurst 70 67 67 65. 271 B Morgan (GB) 70 68 69 64; E Dahllof (Swe) 66 71 68 66. Selected: 273 J Moodie (GB) 70 70 65 68. 276 C Koch (Swe) 72 66 69 69, B King 68 69 72 67, J Inkster 68 72 70 66. 277 J Head (GB) 68 70 70 69. 279 C Matthew (GB) 71 71 69 68.

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