Aug 02, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When Jenny Suh went home to Virginia late in June, her golf game was in bad shape, having missed her three previous cuts on the Duramed Futures Tour. She spent two full weeks making small alterations to that swing, hoping they would work.
Did they ever.
Three events after returning to the Tour, Suh, who turns 24 later this month, won for the first time, edging past Korean Seo-Jae Lee in a playoff at the Alliance Bank Golf Classic at Drumlins Country Club’s East course to take home a $14,000 first prize.
“It feels great,” Suh said after calling her parents in Virginia to tell them the good news. “The whole time, I was very happy. Just to be contending, and to feel the nerves again, was good.”
Both Suh and Lee finished at 12-under-par 201, one shot better than fast-closing Whitney Wade. Defending champion Kim Welch tied Angela Buzminski and Caroline Larsson for fourth place at 205, eight under par.
A University of Alabama graduate, Suh was 20th on the Futures money list in 2008, but just 56th coming into this week. She had also never seen Drumlins East, the course to which this tournament moved after its first 13 years at the Links at Erie Village.
Perhaps some karma was at work, though, as Suh spent the week staying at the house of Fayetteville-Manlius girls golf coach Anne Miller — whose team won last Wednesday’s Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Pro-Junior Challenge for the second year in a row.
Everyone had to wait to get started, thanks to heavy rains on Friday morning that caused a 3 1/2 hour delay. This meant that only half the 144-player field would finish on Friday, with the rest returning Saturday morning, then going right to their second round.
Suh was in that group that finished Friday. Nothing was happening for her until she birdied three of the last four holes, turning a so-so round into a three-under-par 68 that jumped her near the top of the leaderboard.
Buzminski was at the top, thanks to a bogey-free 66 that included birdies on three of the par-3 holes at Drumlins East. Lee, 22nd on the Futures money list coming in, was one shot back after a 67, as was Ashley Prange.
Though they started late on Saturday, both Suh and Lee would get enough time to finish their rounds — and both would pass Buzminski.
Suh ripped her way to a tournament-best 65 to push her total to 133, nine under par. That included a fast finish where she made a long birdie putt on 17, then a cross-country 40-footer on the 18th that symbolized her hot round.
“Every putt I looked at just went in,” Suh said.
Meanwhile Lee made her big move at the turn, with three straight birdies on 10, 11 and 12. Practically running to finish before dark, the Korean (who turns 21 next week) finished with a 66, tying Suh at nine under, one shot ahead of Buzminski, who made her own birdie on 18 for a solid 68.
On Sunday morning, the heavy rain returned, pushing the start back two hours. Though the precipitation lingered for a while, by mid-afternoon the sun was out, and everyone could focus on golf again.
Amid the early rain, Lee birdied the 1st, but Suh answered with a birdie on 2. They matched scores over the next five holes before Lee put an iron to six inches on the par-3 8th for a birdie, and Suh bogeyed the 9th, her only mistake of the day.
At the turn, Lee, at 12 under, led Suh and Buzminski by two, but bogeys at 10 and 12 would put an end to Buzminski’s chances. Meanwhile, Wade charged, the Kentucky native making late birdies on 16 and 18, but falling one shot short.
So it came down to Suh and Lee — and it turned on the tough par-3 12th. Suh hit a five-wood to close range, then sank the birdie to pull within one.
Lee would make a long birdie on the par-5 13th to match Suh and go to 13 under. From that point on, Suh would be steady, making nothing but pars the rest of the way and hoping for Lee to make some kind of mistake.
That came at the 16th, the thrilling par-3 that dips down a steep hill to the smallest green on Drumlins East. Lee’s tee shot flew way left into the rough, giving herself little chance to get her chip shot close on a green sloping away from her. She bogeyed, her first of the day, and the tournament was tied again.
On the 17th, Suh had to make a nervous four-footer to save par and stay even. As she parred the 18th, Suh had to watch Lee get a 15-foot, uphill chance at birdie and the outright win — but the putt slid just right of the hole. Both Suh and Lee had shot matching 68s in the final round, and would need overtime to settle it.
So they went back to the 18th tee for the playoff. Lee got fortunate in that her drive, which went left, tumbled down the hill to the fairway. However, her approach shot flew too far left, and Lee faced a brutal chip, just as on 16.
Meanwhile, Suh drilled her approach to 20 feet and two-putted for par. Lee’s chip went 15 feet past, and when her par putt missed, Suh had a victory she could not have imagined a month earlier.