LAKE GENEVA, Wis., June 3, 2007 – Unlike the LPGA Tour, where a Swede has won regularly for the last decade or so, it has been since 1983 that a native of Sweden has won on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. That was the same year that Sofie Andersson was born, and 24 years later today, Andersson became the Tour’s second Swedish winner.
“Being four shots behind going into the last day and then to win by one, that’s pretty cool,” said Andersson of Angelholm, Sweden, a rookie who earned her first professional title at this week’s $90,000 Aurora Health Care Championship at four-under-par 212.
Cool, indeed. Especially since the rookie and recent graduate of the University of California-Berkeley shared private housing with the other Swedish rookie who led for the first and second rounds of this week’s event. Caroline Larsson dominated the headlines and public attention for 36 holes, but it was Andersson who hung around the top three spots and made her move in today’s final round, carding a timely two-under-par 70 with birdies and par saves at just the right moment on the tough-playing Palmer Course at Geneva National Golf Club.
But did she feel like the other Swede?
“Yes,” said Andersson, who turns 24 next Wednesday and whose $12,600 winner’s check moved her to fifth place on the Tour’s money list and to first in the season rookie race. “Caroline has played well all week. I didn’t really expect this outcome when I woke up this morning, but after the second storm delay today, I heard that the leader was at four-under par and I was at three under and I thought, this is good.”
Play was halted twice in the final round because of storms that blew in quickly, but even those disruptions didn’t derail Andersson, who had fellow Duramed FUTURES Tour professional Dana Lacey on her bag.
“We all had dinner Saturday night and since I had missed the cut, I asked if either one of them wanted me to caddie on Sunday,” said Lacey of Perth, W. Australia.
Both Swedes wanted Lacey on their bag, so they did “rock, paper, scissors” for her services. Andersson won in a best-of-three attempt. So Lacey set out with Andersson today to chase her first pro win.
But early on, it wasn’t just a head-to-head contest between two Swedish friends who travel in the same car and stay in the same private housing. For much of the final round, it was Larsson trying to hold off amateur Esther Choe, who birdied her first two holes to move within one shot of Larsson.
The 17-year old had three birdies and two bogeys on her first five holes, and then took a share of the lead at four-under par when Larsson double-bogeyed the ninth. But when Larsson added a bogey on the 11th, Choe grabbed a one-shot lead and seemed poised to make a run at the title in her first Duramed FUTURES Tour appearance.
Larsson wasn’t done yet. She stroked a 6-iron to six feet and converted for birdie on the 13th hole to regain a share of the lead, but lost it on the next hole when her four-foot par save lipped out. A missed green on the par-three 16th cost Larsson another bogey and ended any chance of chasing on the difficult closing holes.
“I really tried all the way to the last shot and I didn’t give up for a second, but it didn’t feel like anything went my way today,” said Larsson of Danderyd, Sweden, who carded a final round score of 76 and finished tied for fourth with Jane Park (73) of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
It was Andersson who played strong on the final holes. She rolled in an uphill seven footer for birdie on the 15th hole and suddenly found herself tied for the lead with Choe with three holes left to play.
“Sofie is a great ball striker and a great player, so I was just trying to stay positive with her,” said Lacey.
And that included a lot of support on the 18th hole, when Andersson began feeling the pangs of pressure. She received relief from casual water on the 18th fairway, but landed short of the green. Left with a precarious 15-yard flop shot to the hole -- of which 13 yards was grass and three yards was green -- Andersson never showed the nerves that made her ask Lacey for a bag “just in case” as they walked up the 18th fairway. Andersson neither lost her lunch nor her courage as her deft chip landed two feet from the hole to secure the par save.
“There wasn’t much green to work with for that shot, but she played it to perfection,” said Lacey. “She knew she had to get it up and down to have a chance to win and she did it.”
Third-year player Brandi Jackson of Greenville, S.C., got hot with birdies on holes 8, 9 and 10, and then birdied the 17th to go to three-under -- one shot off the lead with one hole to play. But Jackson took par on the 18th and cruised into a tie for second with a two-under-par, final-round score of 70.
With Larsson and Park now two shots behind Choe and Andersson, all Andersson could do was wait. They could return to the 18th tee for extra holes or Choe could win the tournament outright on the last hole. Instead, the amateur Choe gassed her approach shot and flew over the green onto a hill with deep rough.
Choe’s downhill chip was a tester, but the 2006 Rolex AJGA Player of the Year landed her ball to 12 feet above the hole. She had benefited by watching Park’s putt from nearly the same line, but Choe’s par putt broke two feet to the right. Choe carded an even-par 72 to tie for second with Jackson at 213 (-3).
Standing on top of the hill overlooking the 18th green, Andersson could barely believe her eyes.
“I knew that she was four under for the tournament, and it was possible for her to make it,” said Andersson of Choe’s difficult par attempt on the 18th green.
But this time, it was Andersson’s turn. And in a bright sun shower, underneath the arc of a rainbow and only a few fairways over from the cacophony of a million singing cicadas, the other Swede had become the latest Swede to win in more than two decades.
Marie Wennersten had no idea when she won back in 1983 that so many great young Swedish talents would follow. And Andersson, who went to instructional seminars with Wennersten when she was 12, had no idea that one day, she would add her own name to the history books as only the second representative from her homeland to win on this American golf tour.
“I’ve always kind of played behind someone, including behind Karin [Sjodin] and Louise [Stahle] when we were amateurs,” said Andersson, who finished tied for third earlier this season in McAllen, Texas. “But I feel more comfortable there.”
With the win safely in her pocket, Andersson quietly slipped around a corner fence, away from the crowd gathered on the 18th green. She called home and spoke to her family in the Swedish night. And before she closed her telephone to walk to the awards ceremony, Andersson used her cell phone camera to snap a shot of the large rainbow -- its base nearly touching the 18th fairway. She would take a piece of the winning rainbow with her, storing it on her phone to remind her about that little pot of gold at the end of the year called the LPGA Tour.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly cloudy, turning into stormy skies with rain, lightning and wind gusts up to 32 mph. Play suspended from 12:17 p.m. to 1:31 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Temperature dropped from the mid-70s to 62 degrees. Stormy skies cleared to sunny skies, with temperatures rising to the mid-70s. Skies cleared to sunny, again turning cloudy with rain and lightning. Play suspended for the second time at 4:44 p.m., resuming at 5:29 p.m. Tournament concluded in bright sunlight and light rain.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo Getty Images