As the winter that won’t end marches on, there are only 81 days until the best golfers in the world tee it up in the opening round of the U.S. at Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course.
With four top-10 finishers, including a remarkable rally in the final two rounds by senior Paula Reto, Purdue took the team title at the Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate last Sunday by a shot over Vanderbilt.
Something about the Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. must agree with the Boilermakers because it was the second time they’ve won the event in three years, taking the title in 2011 with a third-place finish a year ago.
After opening with an 80, Reto, a South African, fired rounds of 69 and 68 for a 1-over 217 total that left her in second place, two shots back of individual winner Ashley Armstrong (76-69-70—215) of Notre Dame.
Reto’s final-round 68 led Purdue to a final-round 290 that gave it an 876 total, one shot better than Vanderbilt. Notre Dame was another 11 shots back of Vanderbilt in third at 888.
Purdue opened with a 295 and then improved to 291 before cutting another stroke off of that total in the final round.
Freshman Margaux Vanmol added a final-round 73 to her first two rounds of 73 and 75 to finish in a tie for fifth at 221 with teammate and fellow Belgian Laura Gonzalez-Escallon (71-76-74). Another shot back in a tie for ninth was redshirt senior Kishi Sinha, who had rounds of 74, 71 and 77 for a 222 total.
Sophomore Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, saved her best for last with a final-round 75. Combined with her first two rounds of 79 and 77, that left Kan in a tie for 38th at 231.
Kan saw some of her old friends from the District One and PIAA trail in this event, including the two players that she was the runnerup to at the PIAA Tournament in the 2008 and 2009, respectively, Kennett’s Christine Shimel, who is at Maryland, and Radnor’s Jackie Calamaro, who is a redshirt sophomore at Illinois.
Calamaro struggled a little with rounds of 79, 89 and 82 for a 250 total that left her in a tie for 88th. Calamaro’s teammate, junior Ember Schuldt, had an outstanding tournament with rounds of 75, 73 and 74 for a 222 total that left her in a tie for ninth.
Among the other Illini who teed it up at the Lady Jaguar, redshirt sophomore Samantha Postillion (85-77-74) finished strong to end up in a tie for 50th at 236, Pimploy Thirati (80-83-81) finished in a tie for 75th at 244 and Crystal Smith (88-89-86) finished 97th at 263.
Illinois had rounds of 319, 322 and 311 to finish 15th in the competitive 18-team field at 952.
Shimel had rounds of 80, 80 and 84 to finish in a tie for 75th at 244. One of her Terrapin teammates, Emily Gimpel, another of the former District One standouts out of Mount St. Joseph, was a shot better than Shimel in a tie for 73rd at 243 after rounds of 81, 83 and 79.
Maryland finished 13th in the team race with rounds of 317, 315 and 317 for a 952 total.
There’s a new sheriff in town
It might have been lost in the madness of March, but American Stacy Lewis ascended to No. 1 in the world with a victory in the LPGA’s Founders Cup last Sunday.
Cristie Kerr had briefly been No. 1, but it has been tough for any American to break the stranglehold foreign players have had on the top spot dating back to the glory days of Swede Annika Sorenstam and continuing with the rise of Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa and the sudden run to the top by Taiwan’s Yani Tseng.
But Tseng’s game hit a rough patch last year and she is still not quite the dominant player she was in 2011.
And Lewis has barged right into the picture. Lewis was born in Ohio, but raised in Texas and it shows in the toughness she has shown in dealing with scoliosis, a congenital back problem. A spinal fusion that hopefully was going to allow her to play golf left her in a back brace just as she was about to embark on her college career at the University of Arkansas. Eventually the procedure proved successful. But there were a lot of dark days before that was assured.
Lewis honed her game the way many young Americans – and many foreign women as well – do these days, playing Division I golf and becoming an NCAA champion with the Razorbacks. She isn’t big, 5-5 is all, but she has a huge heart and is very, very competitive.
Lewis trails Beatriz Recari of Spain by four shots going into today’s final round of the Kia Classic, but she is becoming a threat to win every time she tees it up.
The first women’s major of the year is a little more than a week away and Lewis made the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship the first major in her trophy case. She might be looking for a second major win in two Sundays.
Speaking of the Kraft Nabisco, the player who should have won that event a year ago, I.K. Kim, is also in contention at the Kia Classic this weekend. Kim fell asleep on a tap-In that would have given her the title at the Kraft Nabisco a year ago and then lost a playoff. Redemption for I.K. at the Kraft Nabisco would be poetic justice indeed.
Speaking of No. 1 in the world, don’t look now, but that Woods fella is leading at Bay Hill going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and should he win, he will be back atop the men’s World Rankings, a place he is very familiar with.