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Welch outlasts Pak in epic Futures battle

Kim Welch began Sunday's final round of the Duramed Futures Tour's Alliance Bank Golf Classic at the Links at Erie Village wondering if her newfound television fame would translate into wins on the course.

More than 10 long hours later, Welch got her answer, prevailing when Jin Young Pak, her rival throughout a long and trying battle, missed a short par putt on the fourth playoff hole.

The numbers will say that Welch shot 70, one under par, while Pak put up a 71 as the pair tied after 54 holes at 204, nine under par, and that Welch won $12,600 for finishing on top. But numbers alone do not even close to telling this story.

What started on a soggy morning did not end until Welch and Pak had gone through 22 holes of high-wire tension, enduring two prolonged weather delays and countless momentum shifts before finishing close to sunset.

Futures officials must be credited with good hindsight, sending all the players that made the cut of five-over-par 147 off before 9:30 a.m. off both the 1st and 10th tees. They thought they could finish before bad weather arrived. That would not prove to be the case.

As the day started in gloomy drizzle, Pak held the lead at nine under par, one ahead of Welch, whose 64 on Saturday was the low round of the tournament. They sat two shots ahead of the field, with Christi Cano in third place at six under.

Welch may have been the best-known player in the field, due to her victory in the Golf Channel's "Big Break Ka'anapali" program, whose episodes ended earlier in the month. Though winning that event entitled her to Futures Tour exemptions through 2009, Welch, 11th on the money list going into the tournament, was hungry to get to the top five on the money list and graduate to the LPGA Tour.

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