Tina Barrett, her mental and physical golf batteries recharged, returns to the LPGA tournament wars this week, playing at the Oldsmobile Classic in Lake Worth, Fla.
The 72-hole event, which begins Thursday, will inaugurate a year's program that will see the women playing the most tournaments for the most money in the tour's history. The schedule lists 40 events offering $20.8 million, up $2.6 million from last year.
Barrett, 25, and ready for her fourth tour season, comes into the year backed by the finest December of her pro career. Within a space of 10 days, she earned $23,250.
She and Fred Funk, of Laurel, each collected $5,750 for their tie-for-17th in the JCPenney Classic at Innisbrook in Florida, and a week later the Baltimorean reached the quarterfinals of the LPGA World Match Play championship at Princeville, Hawaii, worth $17,500.
Of the team event, Funk said, "I didn't help her at all," and then raved, "She has the best golf swing I've ever seen. I hope she invites me again."
Barrett called the experience "nerve-wracking" during a recent conversation.
"I think the LPGA has an inferior complex, because the men are always seen as such good players. We're on the outside looking in, and are in awe of them. Then, when you are on the inside, you realize they have skill levels, too."
She said there was awe watching long-hitting Davis Love III on the practice tee, but it was the same kind of awe the men have for one of their own when they watch John Daly drive a ball out of sight.
"It was tough, because I was trying so hard, but I came in swinging well, and it helped. And Fred is one of the best putters I've ever seen," a fact to which many Middle Atlantic PGA players readily will attest.
Barrett, who earned $138,232 for 32nd place on the 1991 money list, was among 27 who got into the match-play event , then beat Ikuyo Shiotani, from the Japanese tour, 5 and 4; and Juli Inkster, 4 and 3, before she lost to Michelle Estill, 4 and 3.
"It wasn't hard to switch from stroke to match play," Barrett said, "and for a year-ending event, it was perfect. It's a fair course that can yield a lot of birdies, so you tend to be a little more aggressive."
Mentally refreshed after getting away from the game for a month, Barrett took care of the physical part last week when she spent some time with her teacher, DeDe Owens.
"Basically, we'll be working on fundamentals," Barrett said before the session. "You don't want to be trying something new right now, so she'll be confirming my basics, making sure all is in tune.
"Take a couple of weeks off, and you can get into some bad habits, so she'll reinforce what we've done before, and maybe give me a few things to think about, but nothing major."
Barrett won a tournament as a rookie, had a mentally miserable second season when she was not able to get any consistency in her play. Last year, focused on thoughts from just one teacher (Owens), she made the cut in 19 of 26 starts with a best finish of solo third at the Chicago Shoot-Out.
"This time, I'm in a much better mindset. I have confidence in what I'm doing," she said . "A year ago, I did well early, had a stretch of poor weeks, then bounced back [two top 5's in three weeks].
"It was a case of being patient, and realizing I was working toward something positive. Basically, I hit the ball better and putted better than in the past."
The tour's area dates are May 14-17 for the LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club; June 4-7 for the McDonald's Championship at Du Pont CC, in Wilmington, and June 19-21 for the Lady Keystone Open at Hershey CC, in Hershey, Pa.
NOTES: Former Owings Mills resident Sarah LeBrun Ingram, a Caves Valley Golf Club member living in Nashville, Tenn., finished seventh at 302, seven shots behind playoff winner Carol Semple Thompson, in the 37th annual Harder Hall Women's Invitation tournament at Sebring, Fla. Thompson and Ingram are expected to be on this year's U.S. Curtis Cup team when the side is announced at the annual meeting of the USGA Saturday in Palm Beach, Fla. . . Richard Tufts, Hale Irwin, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Harry Cooper have been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. . . . A Golf and Travel Show, geared to the consumer, will be held March 21-22 at the Towson Center. Discount tickets and information are available in advance from Media Two, 308 Woodlawn Road, Baltimore 21210, (410) 235-6085. . . . The Leukemia Society will conduct its third annual indoor golf outing -- a putting tournament -- Friday at the Marriott-Hunt Valley, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Professionals Billy Bassler of Rolling Road GC and Mike Healy of Geneva Farms will handle the course layout.