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Original Issue

Laura Davies

Laura Davies can't help swinging for the fences...and the cart paths and the galleries. Her Ruthian drives are the talk of the tour. If the 30-year-old Englishwoman played baseball instead of golf, she would be batting .385 right now. That's five for 13, as in five wins in the most recent 13 tournaments she has played worldwide, including the last two in a row, the Sara Lee Classic in Old Hickory, Tenn., and last week's McDonald's LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Del.

"People want to see you have a go," says Davies when asked about the fans who turn out to watch her launch golf balls into suborbital space. "I reckon that's why they come out." She reckons right. Davies may not be the LPGA tour's most accurate driver—she hates laying up—but she is certainly its longest and most prodigiously talented.

That fact was driven home, and driven all over the 6,386-yard Du Pont Country Club course in Wilmington, during the final round on Sunday. Davies, who began the day tied for the lead with Meg Mallon at two under par, played the front nine one over to fall a shot behind a fired-up Patty Sheehan. Not to worry. Davies launched a 315-yard tee shot on the par-5 11th, which she birdied before shaving three more strokes off par at 12, 14 and 15. She accomplished this despite hitting four cart paths along the way, necessitating creative approach shots over ditches, trees and awestruck galleries. Also awestruck was Davies's playing partner, Mallon, who raised her arms in a victory salute as Davies parred out on 18 to win her second career major, with a five-under 279. Alice Ritzman, the 16-year tour veteran who is still looking for her first LPGA win after finishing three strokes behind Davies in second place, said after the round, "Laura just likes to go out and hit it and find it and hit it again. Her length and touch are an awesome combination."

The soft-spoken but dry-witted Davies takes all the adulation in stride. "In golf you're either meant to win or not," she says nonchalantly, though she admits that if she could figure out exactly why her game is now in such high gear, she would "probably bottle it and sell it."

But not bet it. Davies, an inveterate gambler who owns a racing greyhound, made a few forays to Atlantic City during the tournament in Wilmington. But she says she doesn't wager on golf, never mind that she has become one of golf's sure bets. With Sunday's victory she leads the tour this year in earnings ($467,628), scoring average (70.37), top-10 finishes (six) and victories (three). Only a third of the way into the '94 season, she's running away from the pack for Player of the Year honors. When Davies says, "Golf is a gamble," she can't be referring to her own game. Her caddie, Mark Fulcher, agrees. "Laura," he says, "is a very, very special player."

Davies began playing golf seriously at the age of 13. Following a notable amateur career, which included play on the 1984 British Isles' Curtis Cup team, she turned pro in 1985 and led the European tour in earnings the next two seasons. Davies was granted an automatic LPGA membership in 1987 several months after winning the U.S. Women's Open, only the fourth tournament she had played in this country. She became the "next great player" and now appears to have reached her potential. As LPGA commissioner Charles Mechem Jr. presented the championship trophy to Davies on Sunday, he called her "the greatest female golfer in the world."

For her part, Davies says she's merely "anxious to see what I will do next." So is everyone else.



The LPGA champ has blasted her way to the top of the charts.