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Inkster Edges Pepper At Welch's

Most of the final round of the Welch's-Circle K Championship, Juli Inkster was reeling in the leaders. Then she eagled the 13th hole, and everybody started chasing her.

She punctuated her 7-under-par 65 Sunday by sinking the last of her five birdies on No. 16, enough to beat 1995 champion Dottie Pepper by one stroke with a final score of 15-under 273.

"If you were going to ask me on the first tee today if I would take a 67 or 68, I probably would have taken it," said Inkster, who started four shots off the pace of third-round leader Dale Eggeling. "But once I got going and saw that I had a chance to win, it was great."

The title, Inkster's first this year, left her six points from the 27 needed to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. It was worth $93,750, boosting her from 19th to third on the money list -- behind Karrie Webb and Kelly Robbins -- with $148,532 in five tournaments.

Pepper led from her birdie on the first hole until Inkster's 8-foot eagle putt -- her third shot on the 470-yard No. 13.

Pepper, who has finished second six times since her last victory 2½ years ago, was two shots back until she birdied No. 16. But she couldn't make up the ground when both parred out.

Elspeth Burnside:
Pepper heats it up

Melanie Hauser:
These ladies are good

Juli Inkster
Dottie Pepper

Tournament stats
Pepper wasn't discouraged, considering she had surgery on her left hand and a foot in December. Unable to practice until eight weeks ago, she was 66th in her first tournament, but tied for second and ninth in the next two before taking four weeks off.

"I thought I played really well," Pepper said after shooting 69."I had 10- and 12- and 14-footers all day long for birdie. They were really good putts that just didn't go in. I can't go to Phoenix (this wee) and work on anything."

Both Inkster and Pepper hit their second shots over the green on the par-5 No. 18, and two-putted for par after chipping back.

After the chip, Inkster faced an 18-foot putt for birdie, and she left it about 2 feet short.

Pepper's birdie attempt on the last hole was from about 11 feet. It missed by an inch.

"I thought I hit it perfectly, and that it was just going to tumble right in the hole," Pepper said.

"If there's one person I'd want to have make a putt for me, it's Dottie," Inkster said. "I snuck away with that one, because there's not very many that she's going to miss."

Catriona Matthew was third at 275, one shot ahead of Ashli Price-Bunch, Nancy Scranton, Hollis Stacy and Tammie Green.

Webb and defending champion Helen Alfredsson were four shots behind Inkster. For Webb, a two-time winner this year, it was her lowest finish. She was no lower than seventh in four previous events.

Third-round leader Dale Eggeling and playing partner Michele Redman tied for 10th place at 278.

Inkster was the only one of the top 11 to complete the round without a bogey, a key to victory.

"I didn't get in any real trouble, and I didn't waste any shots," she said.

Pepper started the round with a birdie, but made just her third bogey of the tournament on the second hole.

Eggeling, who started a shot ahead of Pepper and Redman, bogeyed the first two holes and three of the first five.

She had two more bogeys after the turn and finished with a 74, perpetuating her reputation for playing well in Tucson until the final round. Eggeling has missed just one cut on the Randolph Park North layout in this decade, and this was her sixth top-10 finish in nine years.

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