Sports Briefs

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2000

Nunaka Valley tops Soldotna Big League

The Soldotna Big League softball team lost to Nunaka Valley 5-4 Thursday in the Tournament of Champions at the Abbott-O-Rabbit Fields in Anchorage.

Jamie Carr pitched four innings for Peninsula, while Jessica Foster pitched three. Tabitha Strauss had three RBIs, while J.R. Zufelt accounted for the other run by stealing home.

Four teams are playing in the round-robin tournament. Peninsula continues play today with a 6 p.m. game against Service.

Williamson, Perry share GMO lead

MILWAUKEE -- Jerry Kelly thinks he could be destined to win the Greater Milwaukee Open. His first-round performance suggests he might be on to something.

Jay Williamson and Kenny Perry shot 7-under-par 64s to share the lead after the first round of the GMO on Thursday.

The leaders are just one stroke ahead of a group of five players that includes Madison native Kelly. With an enthusiastic gallery cheering his every move, Kelly birdied three of four holes late in his round and held a share of the lead before bogeying his final hole to finish with a 65.

Kelly has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he has consistently performed well in front of the home fans. His best career finish was a second place in the 1996 GMO, and last year he held a lead on the tournament's final day before falling to Carlos Franco.

''I kind of feel like I'm destined to win somewhere, and this has been my best tournament,'' Kelly said. ''You put two and two together, maybe.''

After his round, Kelly headed to his home 80 miles away in Madison. He planned to spend the evening working on his game and spending time with his 23-month-old son, Connor, who joined his father in the interview room.

''You get some adrenaline out there when you know you're playing well,'' Kelly said. ''But it's not quite the same as when you get the lead on Sunday.''

Corey Pavin, Frank Lickliter, Loren Roberts and Cameron Beckman matched Kelly's 65, while Franco was one of six players two strokes off the lead at 66. That group included J.P. Hayes, another Wisconsin native with a history of playing well in Milwaukee.

Franco, who beat Tom Lehman by two strokes last year, is trying to become the 10th player in tour history to successfully defend two tournament titles in the same year. Two months ago, he defended his title in the Compaq Classic in New Orleans.

Williamson was one of the first players to finish on a gorgeous day at Brown Deer Park. He played a steady, bogey-free round that included several big shots with his 30-inch putter, which he recently cut down to what he now claims is the smallest club on tour.

Williamson, who bounced back and forth through qualifying school and the lower tours for much of the 1990s, would love a win in a weakened field at the GMO. Just five players ranked in the top 50 are here, with most choosing to take an extra week of practice for next week's British Open.

''I'd love to play a golf tournament knowing that I have a job for the next year,'' Williamson said. ''I'm really close to being where I want to be in this world of golf.''

Perry, who hasn't won on tour since 1995, played in the afternoon but still matched Williamson's morning score. He credited the immaculate condition of Brown Deer Park's greens with his ability to close strong in a bogey-free round.

The course was hit with 13 inches of rain in June and more this month. The greens are mostly dry now, but still moist enough to be soft. More than one player called them ''perfect.''

''If I play like I did today, I've got a good shot at this golf tournament,'' Perry said. ''I think as the greens speed up by the weekend, it's going to be a very challenging course.''

All four of the tour's Wisconsin natives played well on Thursday. In addition to Kelly and Hayes, Edgerton native Steve Stricker and Madison's Skip Kendall each shot a 69, five strokes off the lead. All four played in front of larger-than-normal galleries.

Casey Martin rode his golf cart to a 68, going 4-under par on his first 10 holes. He barely missed a long eagle putt on 18.

''I played better today, especially off the tee,'' Martin said. ''Except for a couple of blemishes, I played well.''



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