It wasn't as if Lexi Thompson had never faced the shot before. Had never felt the pressure of needing a birdie to tie the lead on the final hole of an LPGA event. Had never felt the eyes of thousands of fans looking on.
Playing the par-5, 500-yard 18th hole of the Bay Course at the Dolce Seaview Resort, Thompson belted a wind aided drive that traveled in the 300-yard range but skipped through the fairway and first cut of rough into the second higher cut. She faced a 190-yard shot out of that rough, but knew she had the club to get to the green if struck to perfection.
"The ball had been running up (to the green) well all week, so I figured I could hit my pitching wedge, get a little flier and bounces, and with the wind get to the green," said the LPGA star, who made her pro debut at Seaview at age 15. "Everything had to work, but I had the confidence to hit the shot."
Thompson took a mighty swing, and the ball flew high into the air, as as planned, hit well short of the green but bounced several times before settling about 20 feet from the hole.
Striding to the green she knew her 10-under-par would not win anything. She knew a two-putt birdie would be good, but an eagle would be much better as the US Women's Open winner, Jeongeun Lee6, was two holes back and at 10-under.
After surveying the putt from several angles, she carefully struck the ball and watched as it meandered across the green before dropping into the cup for an eagle. That boosted her to 12-under-par and gave her the outright lead as Lee6 was putting out on the 16h hole.
Thompson signed her scorecard and strode to the practice putting green, expecting a playoff.
Lee6 parred 16 and 17 and needed an eagle of her own to tie Thompson, but it wasn't to be. She birdied the 18th and finished runner-up.
Thompson won, and has claimed an LPGA tournament win for the seventh straight season. Her closing 67 and 54-hole total of 201 was superb given the elements.
"This is a relatively short course, but it's oh so difficult," explained Thompson. "Tantalizing greens, and with the wind (gusting to 25 miles-per-hour) there are more than enough difficulties. I knew the course would play difficult, and you saw me stumble a couple times."
Lee6 stumbled as well at times, finishing at 11-under-par 202.
CHIP SHOTS: It was Thompson's 11th LPGA Tour victory...Two-time champion Anna Nordquvist finshed at 7-under-par...Thompson had missed four cuts in six prior visits to Seaview.
The road back to the LPGA Tour is anything but easy, but Bucks County's Brittany Benvenuto is doing her best to return to the place she feels she belongs.
She took a large step at the Symetra Classic in Davidson, N.C., where she finished second and earned the largest check of her professional career --- $14,501.
The Neshaminy graduate, who played the LPGA Tour in 2018 but failed to retain playing privileges, opened the Classic with a 75, then turned on the afterjets. Her second round 70 was strong, but her final round of 66 propelled her up the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 211 total to finish second to Leona Maguire.
"This (runner-up finish and 6-under final round) gives me a boost of confidence. I did not play well in the first round, then went to the range and found out some things. (Today) was awesome, so much fun," said the southpaw swinging Benvenuto.
Benvenuto currently stands 14th on the Symetra Tour money list. She has made the cut in all seven Symetra events entered this year.
CHIP SHOTS: THe top-10 players on the Volvik Race for the Card standings from the Symetra Tour earn LPGA playing privileges for 2020...
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ --- Golf is a wonderful, testing, invigorating game. Oh, it’s anything but easy. If anything, it’s perplexing. It’s a game with a myriad of twists and turns which send some players to a championship while others to golf’s funny farm.
“It’s a game that can be hard to figure out, one where you think you have and all is well one day and the next comes unexpected adversity,” commented none other than Phil Mickelson several years ago.
One can have all the credentials, yet still not become a star. Mental challenges can outweigh physical ones. As Dennis Milne, the late Trenton Country Club pro, once told me, “I had a perfect shot on a par-3 hit the flagstick and bounce out of bounds.”
And this is fun?
For years Annie Park build an impressive resume winning at the junior, collegiate and professional level, claiming top honors on the Symetra Tour. She graduated to the LPGA Tour in 2016 with high expectations but little to show for it. Park and the Tour just didn’t click.
What was supposed to be an easy transition didn’t happen, and so so efforts were interspersed with missed cuts and confusion.
Putting was a problem, and admittedly she went through eight different putting techniques.
At the depths of 2017 she seriously considered “retiring” from professional golf and dusting off her game for a job in journalism or marketing.
It wasn’t until her older sister Bo sat her down and gave a motivational kick butt talk that screwed Park’s head back on straight. “In a nutshell, she said I had talent, I was doing good things, but was overanalyzing things, letting things get inside my head,” said Park in the Stockton Seaview clubhouse this week. “Yes, I was struggling, but I also had a lot going for me. Everyone has a goal of playing the Tour, and here I was with my ticket. I had the game to make it work.
“I got a great talking to from Bo, that I needed to give it a shot, by best shot. Nothing less. She didn’t want me looking back with regrets. It struck home to me.”
Something Bo said struck a responsive chord, and Park began slicing and dicing the building blocks required to make it happen. With practice and dedication the long putter began working, and pitfalls became opportunities.
At the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer Park entered the event closest to her native Long Island with optimism. Seaview’s Bay Course was, as usual, windy, difficult but fair, and Park was up to the challenge. She had confidence from a sixth place finish there the prior year, and was dedicating game toward optimism rather than worries.
Park completed three trips around the Donald Ross designed Bay Course in 16-under-par 197 that earned her a winning check of $262,500. That was slightly more than she had earned in her prior 47 LPGA events. Her closing 63 was sparkling effort.
The LPGA’s best, such as Juli Inkster, Betsy King, Stacy Lewis, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez had already won here, so Park’s name is in Hall of Fame company.
“Last year here was magical,” said Park, holding her young puppy Lexi. “It was a major weight off my back. I have confidence and believe other good things are coming.
LPGA NOTES --- The tournament has generated more than $34M in charitable donations over the year, and each season’s event generates more than $19M in economic development for the greater Atlantic City area…The event recently signed on to host the tournament through 2023.
Brittany Benvenuto is fighting the fight on ladies professional golf, playing on the Symetra Tour after a short season on the LPGA Tour.
The Symetra Tour - the top developmental circuit for the LPGA - offers outstanding competition and a place to hone one's game. Last year, playing on a medical exemption, made a couple cuts while getting into a few LPGA events. This season she's working hard on her game on the Symetra Tour, which visits Montgomery County May 31-June 2 at the Raven's Claw Golf Club in Pottstown.
Benvenuto, a native of Langhorne where she attended Neshaminy High School, has been consistent this year in three Symetra Tour events, making the cut in each.
She was 31st in the Skyigolf Championship (77-69-67--286), 37th at the IOA Championship (71-76-77--224) and 48th at the Florida Natural Charity Classic (71-72-73--216). She stands 40th on the money list.
A year ago at Seaview playing in the Shop-Rite LPGA Championship, Benvenuto spoke about the highs and lows of her career. "I've built my game so that I'm giving myself a shot, but there is a whole lot of work to be done," said Benvenuto, who was 38th in the season ending Symetra Tour Championship. "The injuries have set me back, but I'm optimistic."
She played in nine LPGA events and loved the taste of play at the highest level of women's golf. And she's hoping her game continues to improve in 2019 to get back to the LPGA next season.