Jul 29, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As the skies darkened over Drumlins Country Club’s East course early Sunday evening, Olivia Jordan-Higgins stared at a five-foot par putt on the 18th green at the climax of the Symetra Tour’s Credit Union Classic.
Make it, and Jordan-Higgins, a native of Great Britain’s Channel Islands, would earn her first pro title. Miss it, and she would be in a playoff with last week’s winner, Thailand star P.K. Kongkraphan.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Jordan-Higgins. “My hands were shaking.”
But Jordan-Higgins calmed down to drain the putt for victory. She pumped her fist, and was doused with water by fellow pros within seconds as she also shared a long hug with her father.
With a total of 207, six under par, Jordan-Higgins held off Kongkraphan by a single shot and earned the $15,000 top prize, and while she didn’t mean to, also spared tour officials and tournament volunteers of a real dilemma.
Just seconds after the tournament ended, a huge rainstorm deluged Drumlins, which would have made a playoff impossible on Sunday, and perhaps difficult on Monday, too, since heavy rains earlier in the final round caused a four-hour delay just after the leaders teed off.
Perhaps it only figured that Jordan-Higgins would have to work hard for her first victory. Two weeks earlier, at the Credit Union Challenge in Albany, Jordan-Higgins had a two-stroke lead going to the final round, only to finish second to Wei-Ling Hsu.
Here, the same scenario presented itself, and the bad weather only added to the challenge. But Jordan-Higgins was up to it, completing a tournament journey that began with a three-under-par 68 in bright, sunny conditions on Friday morning.
Beginning Saturday’s second round two shots behind Kongkraphan, Jordan-Higgins birdied the first three holes to burst into serious contention. Then a birdie on 10, and long birdie putts on 12 and 13, helped her to a 67 to take the outright lead at 135, seven under.
When Sunday dawned, Megan McChrystal, who had shot a sizzling 65 on Saturday to jump into second place, was Jordan-Higgins’ closest pursuer, while Kongkraphan, following an-up-and-down 72 on Saturday, was three shots back.
The firm, fast Drumlins East that challenged the players throughout the first two rounds vanished with Sunday’s early rains, which delayed play after McChrystal and Kongkraphan had birdied the opening hole to draw closer.
More than four hours later, they were at it again, and by the time the 4th hole was done, the final trio was all tied at seven under, but that was as low as anyone would go.
McChrystal started to fade back with a bogey on 5 and a tee shot into an unplayable lie on the par-three 6th, which led to double bogey, and never fully recovered, ultimately tying for fourth with Kendra Little at 210.
Jordan-Higgins also bogeyed 5, but settled down and parred the rest of the holes on the front nine, as did Kongkraphan, who turned in 33 and, at seven under, carried a one-shot lead to the back side.
They switched places at 10 as Jordan-Higgins made her lone birdie of the day and Kongkraphan bogeyed, but a bogey on 11 pushed Jordan-Higgins back to six under, again tied for the lead.
Meanwhile, Amy Meier, playing two groups ahead, was making her own push. Starting at two under, she played bogey-free golf most of the way and, with birdies on 10 and 13, pulled within one shot, hanging close before a bogey on 18 cost her a chance to win, as she posted 209 and finished alone in third place.
So that left it to Jordan-Higgins and Kongkraphan. A clutch par putt on 12 began a string of pars for Jordan-Higgins, who said she was frustrated with not making putts, but still remained patient.
Kongkraphan matched pars until 15, when she drove it way left into the woods, forcing her to hit out sideways and scramble hard for a bogey.
Though not making any birdie putts, Jordan-Higgins continued to rack up the pars, watching as Kongkraphan just lipped out on chances to pull back even at 16 and 17.
From 150 yards out on the final hole, Kongkraphan hit it to 12 feet, while Jordan-Higgins was at the front of the green, with the hole cut back right. Jordan-Higgins’ lag putt stayed short, and Kongkraphan, with a chance to really apply the pressure, missed again by inches.
Given the reprieve, Jordan-Higgins now could par and win – and that’s exactly what she did. Ironically, the 72 she shot in the final round was the exact same total as her final round in Albany, but this time it was enough.
The victory moved Jordan-Higgins to sixth on the Symetra Tour money list, as the top 10 will secure LPGA Tour cards for 2014. Kongkraphan, with her second-place effort, moved from third to first as she has made $41,528 this season, $24,205 of it in the last two weeks alone.
Just 10 players broke par for 54 holes. Perinne Delacour and Giulia Molinaro shared sixth place at 211, while Stephanie Connelly, Lindy Duncan and Alejandra Llaneza finished at 212.
Section III girls golf champion Larissa Carter, from Auburn, played the first rounds, posting 81 and 84 and missing the cut. Defending champion Victoria Elizabeth also missed the cut with rounds of 77 and 79 as Jenny Suh, the 2009 champion, also did not make it to Sunday with a 150 total.