QUEENSTOWN, Md., Aug. 19, 2007
Fankhauser fired rounds of 67-67-70, putting the exclamation point at the end of her round with birdies on the last two holes from 30 feet and three feet to win her second professional title at 204 (-12). And she capped off her first win of the season today by an eight-shot margin over runner-up Kristina Tucker of Stockholm, Sweden, who carded a final-round score of 70 (-2) to finish at 212 (-4).
Mollie Fankhauser/photo Futurestour.com
“It feels great,” said Fankhauser, a third-year pro of Columbus, Ohio. “My game plan was to come out and shoot under par. I’m real excited to go play next week, but I’m not going to relax and just coast in. There are two tournaments left to play.”
Not that Fankhauser ever relaxed all week on the tricky 6,339-yard links-style course nestled amid the golden fescue on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Hunters Oak Golf Club rewards only good ball strikers with its visually challenging tee shots. And it rewards only the most patient players from fairways and greens that have more bumps and moguls than a black-diamond ski slope.
This week, Fankhauser was both solid and patient. And today -- hitting 15 greens and 12 fairways in regulation, and rolling in 31 putts, the former Ohio State University All-American conducted her own clinic on how to peak when it counts and how to keep the pressure on the field for 54 holes at the 17th of 19 season events.
“This is when good players peak and when good players play well because this is when it matters,” said fellow Tour member Allison Fouch of Grand Rapids, Mich., who played against Fankhauser, the Buckeye, when she was at Michigan State University. “Mollie is a phenomenal player and I think she thrives in and responds to the pressure.”
And while players are scrapping and clawing to get into or to remain in the top five positions on the money list for the season-ending reward of five 2008 LPGA Tour cards, Fankhauser’s climb up the money list has been steady and methodical. Her $10,500 payday for this week’s top finish catapulted her from No. 5 to No. 2, tightening the Tour’s money race.
“It’s nice that she’s No. 2 now,” said good friend and fellow Tour member Kelly Cavanaugh of Palos Verdes, Calif. “Maybe she will feel a little more secure in her position. She has worked hard.”
Added top-ranked Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who played on the 2002 U.S. Curtis Cup team with Fankhauser and faced her in Big Ten Conference competition while at Michigan State: “It says a lot about the year she’s having when she’s No. 2 on the money list and she’s played five less events than everybody else.”
A rookie non-exempt LPGA Tour member, Fankhauser began the 2007 season trying to Monday-qualify for LPGA events. But after four failed attempts and a fifth event where she lost in a playoff, Fankhauser returned to the Duramed FUTURES Tour for regular competition. She wanted to be playing, not sitting, and after going head-to-head with other LPGA pros trying just to win a spot in tournament fields, Fankhauser walked away knowing a little more about what she needed to do to be prepared for the next level.
“Sometimes a tremendous amount of frustration can either knock your head right and get you focused or it can really kill a player,” said Fankhauser of her experience this spring playing on both the LPGA and Duramed FUTURES Tours. “I’ve experienced a lot of frustration in both places, but I’ve used the frustration as motivation.”
To the rest of the field this week, Fankhauser was more than motivated. It really was as if she were playing a different golf course and seeing something different than everybody else from the tee. She avoided the treacherous hazards and fescue rough that made so many play defensively, and so many others pay the price.
“She was steady and gave herself opportunities to make birdies,” said Violeta Retamoza (74) of Aguascalientes, Mexico. “She was not giving anything back and I wasn’t doing anything to move ahead.”
Retamoza got within four shots of Fankhauser today, but a bogey on the 10th, a double-bogey on the 14th (when she found a water hazard twice) and another bogey on the 15th derailed the Mexican’s chance to chase Fankhauser. Even her eight-foot birdie chance on the 18th just missed.
“I really had two bad swings today and that was it for me,” said Retamoza, who tied for third at 214 (-2) with Janell Howland (72) of Boise, Idaho, and Liz Janangelo (73) of West Hartford, Conn. “This golf course can get you.”
Annie Young (76) started today’s final round in second place, five shots behind Fankhauser, but never got going today with a balky putter that produced 35 putts.
“Mollie was tough,” said Young, who tied for sixth at 215 (-1) with five others. “Nobody gave her any pressure today and she got herself clear ahead of everybody.”
Even Tucker had to play her back nine at four-under-par for a chance to wiggle into second after three consecutive bogeys on the front.
“After those three bogeys in a row, I definitely thought I was out of it,” said Tucker, also a non-exempt LPGA Tour member. “I pretty much had to shoot a 62 today to catch Mollie.”
Tucker didn’t go that low, but her four birdies on the back enabled her to post her career-best finish on Tour for solo second. She even managed to hole out from 30 yards on a difficult uphill slope adjacent to a bunker for a birdie on the 17th.
Janangelo had a chance to tie Tucker, a fellow Duke Blue Devil, for second on the final hole, but her approach shot fell short into the front right hazard, dropping the second-year pro into a tie for third with her bogey.
In the end, it was all Fankhauser. She carded four birdies and two bogeys and turned would-be chasers into wishers and hopers.
“I was a little surprised that nobody made a charge,” she said. “Violeta tried, but ran into trouble.”
For that matter, so did 140-plus other women in the field at this fifth annual event. And yet, nobody was surprised that the Buckeye in bright orange shorts was up there alone, doing it her way.
“Even in college, she was always the player to beat at each tournament,” added Fouch, who dropped from second to third this week on the money list when Fankhauser moved into her spot. “She was shooting numbers most of us couldn’t shoot at that time. Some people just have that fight inside of them.”
That’s right. Some players have it from the beginning. And some keep it to the end.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Overcast and mostly cloudy with light intermittent rain. High temperature of 77 degrees with winds around 9 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at email@example.com.
photo Getty Images