Aug 31, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Apparently, Christie Kerr likes playing golf in Upstate New York.
Just two months after a dominating, 12-shot victory in the LPGA Championship in suburban Rochester, Kerr returned and won again, this time teaming with PGA Tour star Hunter Mahan to win Tuesday’s Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge at the Turning Stone Resort’s Atunyote Golf Club in Verona.
The third edition this event, which benefits Begay’s NB3 organization and its mission to combat obesity among Native American children, lacked the megawatt star power Tiger Woods provided in 2009, but made up for it with a larger field and more exciting format. And the crowd, estimated at 3,000, helped Begay raise $1.25 million for the foundation.
Instead of a single foursome, 12 golfers hit the Atunyote links – six from the PGA Tour and six from the LPGA Tour. Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, taking a break from their respective retirements, joined Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Anna Rawson and Suzann Pettersen on the female side, with Begay, Mahan, Vijay Singh, Camillo Villegas, Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler on the male side.
In a pairs format, one male and female gofler teamed up – and it was Kerr and Mahan that prevailed, using a late surge of birdies to post a 10-under-par team total of 62, two shots better than Sorenstam and Fowler’s total of 64. Pettersen and Singh were third with 66, while Rawson and Villegas posted a 67. Pressel and Kim had a 68, with Ochoa and Begay shooting a combined 69.
Initially, the main draw for the event was the rare appearance of Sorenstam and Ochoa, who combined to win 99 LPGA tournaments and 12 majors in their careers. Sorenstam retired after the 2008 season to focus on business and family (her daughter’s first birthday fell the day after this event), while Ochoa, just 28, left the tour earlier this year. Both were the world’s top-ranked players at the time of their departures.
Neither Sorenstam nor Ochoa said they had any plans on returning to competitive golf, now or in the near-future. And while there were rough moments in both of their rounds on a sunny, steamy afternoon at Atunyote, they still had some fine moments – especially Sorenstam.
Teamed with Fowler, the 21-year-old PGA Tour rookie famous for his wardrobe (he chose a pink shirt on this day), Sorenstam began to dazzle at the par-3 3rd hole, hitting her tee shot to 18 inches for a birdie. Then on the par-3 6th, her first shot was short and right – but she chipped in, as she would do again at the 10th hole for yet another birdie.
In between all this, Fowler rolled through both front-nine par-5s, with a birdie on 5 and an eagle putt on 8 that was motoring well past the hole before striking it – and sinking. Through 10, Sorenstam and Fowler were seven under par, three shots clear of the other five pairs.
That was when Kerr and Mahan, a two-time PGA Tour winner this year who will play for the United States team in the Ryder Cup next month in Wales, began to take over. Just three under par on the 11th, Kerr sank a 20-foot birdie putt, which seemed to spark both players as Kerr and Mahan added three more birdies on 12, 13 and 14 to zoom to seven under.
Meanwhile, at the par-5 12th, Sorenstam hooked her second shot into weeds and Fowler followed with a second shot into the lake. They would take bogey, surrender the lead – and never get it back, despite late birdies on 14 and 18.
A par on 15 temporarily cooled off Kerr and Mahan. But on the par-3 16th, Kerr deftly hit her tee shot 20 feet left, then watched the ball take the slope down to six feet before making the birdie. At the par-4 17th, Kerr again made a lengthy birdie putt, this one from 15 feet, and Mahan’s wedge to two feet on the par-5 18th provided one more birdie to lock it up. Kerr and Mahan claimed $100,000 of the $400,000 purse.