Last year Danielle Ammaccapane announced, "I know I can win" after a final-round 66 left her tied for third here in the Greater Washington Open.
After a 68 yesterday in the third round of the $1 million LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club, her pronouncement rings true. She trails leader Rosie Jones by five shots heading into the final 18 holes. Whether she can transform potential into reality, however, remains to be seen.
"She's knocking on the door," said Ammaccapane's caddie, Dan Wilson, after watching the talented third-year pro make four birdies to move to 1 over par for the tournament.
"I feel like I've been ready to win for a long time," said Ammaccapane, 24.
She's been close. She finished tied for third in the U.S. Women's Open outside Atlanta two weeks ago and third outright in last week's Phar-Mor Youngstown (Ohio) Classic. That finish brought her season earnings to $145,802, and her career total to $352,017.
"I said I wanted to get it back to even par," she said of yesterday's round. "I'm glad I got myself in position. I've been up there. I should know what it takes. It's just a matter of getting things to go my way at the end."
Ammaccapane has been consistent all year, missing the cut only once in 17 events, and her game seems to be peaking.
"I don't know if you can learn how to win. If I can get into that tunnel vision mode . . . there's 18 holes left and a lot of things can happen, especially on this course."
But she said the course is playing far differently from last year, because of the high rough and the bumpy greens. "If you miss the green, you're in the bunker or in thick rough," she said. "I feel real good about the way I have been playing. Confidence is everything.
"I'm striking it better than I was at the Open. I hit a lot of greens today" -- 15.
Ammaccapane is not a stranger to victory, having won the 1985 national women's public links championship after taking the NCAA title that spring for Arizona State. Yesterday, however, she said she didn't bother looking at the leader board. "I don't like to look at them anyway." Had she done so, she would have seen she's right in the thick of the race for the LPGA record first prize of $150,000.
"Now I'm starting to make a few more putts when I need to," she said. Yesterday she rolled in four for birdies: a 20-footer at the sixth hole, a 12-footer at the eighth, a 15-footer at the ninth and a three-footer at the 11th. Her only bogey came on the third hole, where she hit into sand with her tee shot.
Ammaccapane said she is high-strung -- "I think I have been all my life" -- and on the final green appeared annoyed with herself after ramming a 15-foot birdie attempt three feet past the hole. But she sank the downhill comeback putt to complete a fine round.
"I get a little disgusted, anxious when I don't get some of those first putts up close to the hole," she said.
Today could make her even more anxious, if she can make a move on the leaders or if the leaders move toward her. "Regardless of what happens, if it's not tomorrow, it will be soon," she said of winning her first professional tournament. "I know it's real close."
Ammaccapane said she will be playing mostly on adrenaline today: "I'm taking next week off. I'm extremely tired. These last three weeks have been tough. I'll be exhausted after it's over."