Jul 19, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With steady, bogey-free play in Saturday’s second round, Korean professional Jin Young Pak moved into the lead with 18 holes to go in the Duramed Futures Tour’s Alliance Bank Golf Classic.
And with a spectacular burst at the end of her afternoon, Kim Welch emerged from a pack of challengers to within one shot of Pak at day’s end.
Pak shot a 66, five under par, at the Links at Erie Village to complement her opening-round 67 to post 133, nine under par. And it could have been much lower.
Hitting every green in regulation on the back nine, Pak could only make birdies at 11, 12 and 16, missing short birdie putts four other times along the way. This came after early birdies at holes 1 and 4 put Pak out in front.
Much is at stake for Pak, who currently sits at eighth on the Futures Tour money list with $23,355. If she can win here at Erie Village, Pak, with the first prize of $12,000, would jump into fourth place. The top five Futures Tour finishers at season’s end earn their LPGA Tour cards.
On that same money list, Welch is 11th, with $18,699. A win wouldn’t propel her into the top five just yet, but she’s as famous as anyone on the Futures Tour, and her future is secure.
Back in December, Welch won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Ka’anapali” television program, a program whose episodes did not finish airing until July 8. She beat 11 other golfers, including Ithaca native (and fellow Futures pro) Lori Atsedes.
The rewards included $10,000 cash, an exemption for an LPGA tournament in September and fees paid for all Futures events in 2009, an endorsement contract from Adams Golf (an equipment company) and a BMW Z-4 Coupe, valued at $50,000.
Of course, if Welch makes the Futures top five this year, she might not need those 2009 Futures fees. And if she wins at Erie Village, Welch could point to the last four holes of Saturday’s round as the turning point.
Starting hot, Welch, who shot 70 in Friday’s opening round, birdied the first three holes, but cooled off with just one birdie over the next 11 holes. She arrived at the 15th tee at four under par, and that’s where the fun started.
Going right at the tough right hole location next to the lake, Welch hit it close and birdied, then turned her attention to the 300-yard par-four 16th hole, which bends around another lake but could be driven.
And Welch, the Futures Tour’s longest hitter with an average of 264.3 yards per drive, smacked her tee shot right on the fringe of the green and made the 20-foot putt for an eagle 2.
Just like that, Welch was seven under, and when she birdied 18, she had caught Pak at eight under. Only when Pak drove near the 16th green with her own long tee shot, and turned it into a birdie, did the Korean regain the lead.
Welch, who tied for fourth at Erie Village a year ago, went four under par over the last four holes and got a Saturday 64, one shot off Jean-Mare Busuttil’s tournament record set in 2001, to finish at 134.
Together, Pak and Welch are the heavy favorites on Sunday when they tee off at 9:30 a.m. With forecast of rain and thunderstorms for Sunday, tour officials are sending the players off early, starting at 7:30 a.m., from the 1st and 10th tees to insure that the tournament finishes.
As Saturday’s events proved, that is no small concern. Just as Pak was playing the 2nd hole on Saturday, a heavy downpour hit the course, and the sight of lightning as soon as the rain ended led to an hour-long delay.
Once play resumed on soft greens with no wind to speak of, several players went low. Three groups ahead of Welch, Texan Christi Cano garnered a 65 to post 136, six under par, to finish the round alone in third place and secure a spot in the last group with Welch and Pak.
Lisa Ferrero and Gerina Mendoza played together in the next-to-last group and both finished at five-under-par 137. First-round leader Lisa Meldrum fell back to a 72, hurt by a double bogey on the 9th hole, and is tied with Song Yi Choi and Moah Chang at 138. Mo Martin is alone in ninth place at 139.
Atsedes bounced back from her rough Friday finish (bogeys on 17 and 18) to shoot 68 in the second round. Her birdies on holes 5, 7 and 12 left her at one under with one round to play. She will tee off at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, an hour ahead of the leaders.
Aside from Welch, two other “Big Break” show winners had low rounds on Saturday. Ashley Prange carded a 65 to move up to 141, while Briana Vega shot an early 66 to get to 142 for the tournament.
Admission to Sunday’s final round is free, with parking at a cost of $5.