Skinner's resurgence was also spurred by Kirk Lucas, a teaching pro she started working with in 1994. Until then she had always relied for instruction on her father, Richard, a North Platte, Neb., club pro, who also made her golf clubs. Lucas, who is based in Fairfax, Va., got Skinner to switch to Ping irons and to reduce the motion in her legs, changes that produced quick results. She won the 1994 Atlanta Women's Championship and earned a career-best $328,021 last year to finish 12th on the money list.
"Kirk's definitely going to get a nice tip," Skinner said on Sunday evening.
It was hard for Lucas not to have mixed emotions because he also teaches Tschetter and occasionally caddies for her as well. They have been dating for a year. Lucas was holding Tschetter's bag on the par-5 18th tee when Skinner hooked her drive into the pond that borders the fairway. At that point Skinner had a three-shot lead and was just trying to get to the scorer's tent without a mishap. She saved her par, and Tschetter made a birdie to steal second place from Michelle McGann. "I told Kirk, 'You know, you probably cost me $80,000,' " Tschetter said afterward. "I just wish I was the player of his that won, but I'm happy for him."
Tschetter played her college golf in the mid-'80s at Texas Christian, in Fort Worth, and she used to practice at Shady Oaks. Ben Hogan was still playing there then. He took a liking to Tschetter and has helped her with her game over the years. He taught her how to hit the ball in the wind, but she won't reveal any secrets. "I could tell you," she told reporters with a smile, "but then I'd have to kill you."
She had at least a share of the lead for each of the first three rounds, shooting 66-67-72. On Sunday, playing with Skinner and Beth Daniel, she came back from a double bogey on the par-3 6th hole with back-to-back birdies at numbers 7 and 8. She lost any real chance to win when she lipped out for pars at 15 and 16, but her runner-up check of $111,711 moved her from 19th to sixth on the money list.
For McGann it was another disappointing ending to a well-played tournament by a woman better known as a clotheshorse than a closer. The knock on her is that she's all hat and no heart on the weekend, yet on Sunday she shot 69. She had a chance for an eagle on 18 that would have given her a 66 and put real pressure on Skinner, but her seven-iron from the fairway kicked off a bank and rolled into a hazard. She took off her sock and shoe to play out of the water, then missed a two-footer for par.
"Someday it's going to happen," said the upbeat but still winless McGann. "We have a lot of tournaments left this year. If I keep my confidence up, it will come."
McGann is only 25, but this is her seventh season on the LPGA tour. She now has 34 top-10 finishes, and the pressure mounts with each blown opportunity. "I don't think there's any reason why Michelle hasn't won," said Daniel last week. "Certainly her game is good enough to win. I just don't think people realize how tough it is to win out here."
The finish provided some excitement to what had been a forgettable week. The scores were low, but the women really earned their paychecks for making the 8.2-mile walk around LPGA International, which was designed by Rees Jones on the undeveloped west side of Daytona Beach. This is the first home course the LPGA has had since moving from Sugar Land, Texas, in 1989, but it is hardly a memorable one, judging from the parade of players coming to the press tent last week who were unable to remember specific holes. There is no island green to strike fear in the hearts of the women the way there is at the Tournament Players Club Stadium course at Sawgrass. "I've birdied the 12th hole three times, and I don't remember it," Daniel said.
LPGA International is so new that there isn't a clubhouse yet, and because of all the marshland, players needed carts to get to the next tee from some of the greens. It didn't help, either, that the course isn't right in the heart of Daytona Beach. Attendance was poor. The crowd count was estimated at 22,000 for the week, about 8,000 fewer than the daily limit at The Players Championship.