Steamboat golfer to play on LPGA

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— Shannon Hanley must feel the urge to pinch herself every time she walks into the locker rooms at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., this week.

Her locker is just a few feet from the lockers of Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster and some of the best known players in women's golf.

For the first time in her career, Hanley, a teaching pro at the Catamount Ranch and Club in Steamboat, is a part of this group and the LPGA -- something she has worked for and dreamed about for the past 23 years.

"This is the biggest tournament of my professional golfing experience," Hanley said. "I'm just very excited to be here."

Hanley qualified for the event by topping Marci Bozarth and Louisa Bergsma on the second hole of sudden death to win the LPGA T&CP Central Section Championships last fall.

The win earned her an invitation to this week's McDonald's LPGA Championships presented by AIG in Delaware -- the first of four majors on the tour this season.

"I just have a passion for the game," Hanley said. "If my putts go in, I think I have as good a chance as the next guy of winning."

Hanley already has played a couple of practice rounds at the DuPont Country Club and is looking forward to the start of play.

"I'm not nervous about playing the practice rounds," Hanley said. "But I might get a little bit anxious on the first day."

That day will come Thursday when things get more serious in the four-round event. A cut Friday will leave only the top 70 golfers advancing to the weekend round and a shot at the $1.6 million purse.

"I'm just hoping to make the cut right now," Hanley said. "Baby steps, you know."

Hanley already has received a lot of support from her co-workers at Catamount who want to see her do well.

"We are all really proud of her and excited for her," said Jim Miller, director of golf and clubhouse operations at Catamount. "This is a pretty big deal for her. To tell the truth, it's a pretty big deal for anyone."

Hanley also will get support from her family, who will make the trip from Wilmington, Del., to support her in person.

"My whole family lives back East, so it's not that big of a deal. But it will be nice," she said.

Last year, Se Ri Pak won the event, coming from behind to beat Beth Daniel by three strokes. This year's tournament will be televised on CBS Saturday and Sunday.

Hanley isn't counting on winning the event. But Miller told her that if she sinks a short putt on the final hole to win the thing, she should look at the camera and wink so that he knows she will not be coming back to work.

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