DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., April 6, 2008 - In a rain-soaked final round with darkness looming, Leah Wigger calmly tapped in her final putt on the 18th green to claim her first professional title at the inaugural $100,000 AMERICAN SYSTEMS Invitational. Wigger shot a final round of 75 to pocket a $14,000 paycheck and close with a three-round total of 212 (-4), two shots ahead of runner-up Indianapolis native Danah Ford, who finished at two-under par with a 214.
For Wigger, a native of Louisville, Ky., with non-exempt LPGA Tour status, it marked her first win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour after finishing in a tie for 16th at the season-opening Bright House Networks Open three weeks ago in Lakeland, Fla. She was able to stick a 6-iron approach shot from 155 yards out in the fairway on the final hole a few feet away from the pin to ice her victory.
"I came in this morning thinking today was my day, my course and my tournament," Wigger said. "I kept hitting greens and making putts and I felt focused a little more out there."
Wigger overcame the poor weather conditions and two bogeys to open her final round. She buckled down and strung together 10 consecutive pars before securing momentum with a birdie on the 13th hole.
"I knew the margin was getting smaller at times but I didn't feel fatigued after playing 30 holes," Wigger said. "I woke up an hour early from what I set my alarm clock at 4:50 a.m., and knew I had to save it for the course."
The victory gave Wigger expected confidence for the LPGA Monday qualifying rounds she will face this season as a rookie non-exempt LPGA Tour member. She isn't expected to return to the Duramed FUTURES Tour until the Decatur, Ill., event in June.
Entering her fourth season on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Ford put together a streak of three birdies and did her best to make things interesting down the stretch.
"All day I was putting it close and I just needed to remain patient," Ford said. "I really had to be more aggressive. It was 'go time.' The putts didn't break like I thought they would, but it really takes a different confidence to play in this weather."
The former Indiana Hoosier posted a career-best finish, surpassing a fourth-place performance at the 2006 Lakeland Duramed FUTURES Classic. Ford said she was used to the weather from her days in the Big Ten Conference.
"I played well in Lakeland and really worked hard over the winter," Ford added. "I think I gain confidence when I have to play behind and not focus on the end results."
Sweden's Caroline Larsson and Song Yi Choi of South Korea finished at one-under par on the day to lead a two-way tie for third at 215 (-1).
Intermittent rainfall continued to saturate the course as the afternoon wore on and a steady downpour was effective around 3:30 p.m. However, lightning was not in the area and play continued without delay.
in contention with two rounds of even par or better and tied for 17th.
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photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse