Jul 29, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At an age when many are still in the midst of their college years, Victoria Elizabeth has made her way to one of the grandest stages in all of women’s sports.
With her victory Sunday in the Symetra Tour Credit Union Classic at Drumlins Country Club, the 20-year-old Elizabeth, a native of Dayton, Ohio, earned $15,000, and all but locked up the LPGA Tour card reserved for the tour’s top 10 money winners at season’s end.
A scoring burst early in Saturday’s second round gave Elizabeth the lead, and she never let go of it, withstanding some late charges in Sunday’s final round to beat Thailand native Thidapa Suwannapura and Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham by two shots with a 12-under-par total of 201.
Elizabeth, who turned pro as an 18-year-old in 2010, had already enjoyed a successful year, with a pair of runner-up finishes on the Symetra Tour, but had yet to win.
Yet she said that playing in this same tournament (under the old Futures Tour banner) in 2010 and ’11 gave her confidence and experience that proved handy the third time around.
Thirty-three players had to return early Sunday morning to complete their second rounds. Of them, only Birdie Kim, the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open champion, was in serious contention, five under through 15 holes when darkness fell Saturday night, and that’s where she would finish.
As the final round started, the lurkers included Kim and Utica native Moira Dunn, who was at four-under-par 138. Neither Dunn nor Kim would factor into the final drama – and for a while on Sunday, Elizabeth attempted to eliminate any possible suspense.
Deft chips on the pair of opening par-fives led to birdies, and on 3 she drained a 32-foot downhill putt, by far her longest of the day, to get to 12 under.
“I didn’t want to go 10 feet past the hole,” said Elizabeth of the putt. “I committed to the line, and it went in.”
No more birdies followed on the front nine. Six straight pars allowed Elizabeth to hit the turn with a four-shot lead, only needing to avoid mistakes the rest of the way.
Yet when Elizabeth made a bogey on 11, Lee-Bentham emerged as a threat. Three under when Sunday began, Lee-Bentham also had a front-nine 33 and birdies on 10, 12, 13 and 15 to sprint to 10 under, just two shots back.
Miffed at her bogey, Elizabeth responded with a dead-on iron to 8 feet on the par-three 12th, which she made for a birdie. When another Elizabeth birdie followed on the par-five 13th and Lee-Bentham could only par out for a tournament-best 64, it looked over.
But Suwannapura added one more twist. After 11 straight pars, Suwannapura, who doesn’t even turn 20 until November, caught fire with four birdies in five holes on 13, 14, 16 and 17.
That, plus a bogey by Elizabeth at 15, meant that, with one hole to play, Elizabeth’s lead was down to a single shot. What’s more, Suwannapura drove straight down the middle on the 18th as Elizabeth’s tee shot drifted left.
Now, though, it was Suwannapura who slipped, hitting her approach long and right of the final green. From 133 yards out, Elizabeth drilled a nine-iron to 6 feet, and though the birdie missed, her safe par clinched the title – and a victory shower from friends and fellow players as soon as she holed out.
Suwannapura’s final-hole bogey left her tied with Lee-Bentham at 203. Canadians had a great week overall, with Samantha Richdale and Nicole Vandermade sharing fourth place at 204, nine under par. Dunn, with a final-round 73, shared 15th place at 211.