Mussani scorches Hunt Club

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Like everyone else, Salimah Mussani had to deal with the intense heat.

Like no one else she did, and then some.

Carrying an umbrella and sizzling putter, Mussani came within a couple of ball rotations from tying the women's course record at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club yesterday. Instead, she had to settle for a 6-under 66 and a comfortable four-stroke lead at the third CN Canadian Women's Tour stop of the season.

"I heard," Mussani said of the news that a missed 33-footer on the 18th green would have given her a share of a course standard set by LPGA pro Martha Nause at the 1994 du Maurier Classic that no other female has even come close to equalling.

"Oh well," she added, chuckling. "There's always (today)."

Don't bet against her.

BATTLING LUPUS

For one thing, the 26-year-old from Burlington is on a roll. A month and a half ago, she drained a 25-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole for a win at Settler's Ghost Golf Club in Barrie that earned her an exemption into the 2006 CN Canadian Women's Open. Then, two weeks later, she picked up the $14,000 winner's cheque at the Michelob Ultra Duramed Futures Players Championship in Decatur, Ill.

All the while, Mussani has had to carry an umbrella as she plays, even on sunny days. Because she has Lupus -- an "autoimmune disorder that effects organ systems, skin, joints and internal organs" -- the heat leaves her especially achy and tired.

"It's part of my routine," said Mussani, who attended the same school (Stanford University) as Tiger Woods. "I couldn't tell you how many bottles of water I had, but I started (Sunday) night, every time I woke up. I knew to load up."

The Lupus that has hindered Mussani's first three years on the Futures Tour -- she's been stronger at the start of tournaments and zapped to the point of having to withdraw at the end -- seems to be under control now.

Ask about her recent string of success, however, and Mussani points to the flat stick. A right-handed player, she's been a lefty on the greens ever since she was 17.

"We were at the Orange Bowl in Miami at the American junior championship," recalls her father, Anil. "We were practising and I took her right-handed putter and she took my left-handed putter, and she started making everything."

Yesterday, in recording eight birdies, Mussani buried putts of 20 feet (on No. 2), 10 feet (No. 3), six feet (No. 7), 15 feet (No. 11), 15 feet (No. 13), 33 feet (No. 14), 27 feet (No. 15) and four feet (No. 17).

She three-putted on No. 1 and No. 8 for her only two bogeys.

"I hit every green except 18, and there I was on the fringe, so I didn't have to chip all day," said Mussani, who posted the remarkable score while failing to birdie any of the par 5s. "My driver is one of the straightest clubs in my bag. A course like this, that's tight, there's a premium on hitting the fairways, so it's to my advantage.

"I thought it would be a really good test, but I was not intimidated by the course."

Amateur Laura Matthews of Stillwater, Okla., and Cheryl Mitchell of Pontiac, Mich., head into today's final round four strokes back of Mussani after both scored a 2-under 70. At 1-under is amateur Kira Meixner of Delta, B.C., Jessica Shepley of Milton and Lisa Meldrum of Kirkland, Que.

Five local competitors are in the field, including Gatineau's Claudia Beauchesne (6-over 78), amateur Ashley Bickerton (80), Julie Cashaback (84), Danielle Nadon (88) and Rebecca Mulville (90).

"It was just unforced errors throughout the day, really," said Bickerton, a fourth-year student at the University of Washington. "I definitely gave it 110%, but I had a couple of bad kicks and missed a couple of short putts. It didn't seem to come together for me, but I'm optimistic for (today)."

Along with the $30,000 purse, competitors are shooting for a spot in next month's Canadian Women's Open at the London Hunt and Country Club. Exceptions will go to today's champion and the other Top 4 players on the Order of Merit after this tournament.


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