McAllen, Texas, April 27, 2008 - Rookie sensation Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., captured her first professional win Sunday at the Jalapeno Duramed FUTURES Golf Classic. Hurst edged runner-up Ashley Prange of Noblesville, Ind., by three strokes, finishing at 8-under par 64on the day and cashing in on an $11,900 paycheck.
Hurst eclipsed the Duramed FUTURES Tour all-time 54-hole scoring mark previously heldby Grace Park (-16) in 1999 at the Morgantown, W.Va., event by posting a three-round total of 198 (-18). She also shattered the previous Jalapeno Duramed FUTURES Golf Classic tournament record that was set by Virada Nirapathpongporn in 2005 (-12).
Judging from the amount of volleying back and forth between Hurst and Prange in Sunday's final round, it could have been easily mistaken for a badminton match.
Birdies were flying left and right off the scorecards of Hurst and Prange throughout the day as the race to finish against incoming bad weather and darkness became a factor. Right on cue as the awards ceremony got underway, lightning that caused Saturday's second round to be suspended started to fill the sky.
Moments earlier, the 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament winner strolled down the 18th green knowing she had secured her first win with a three-shot margin. Still, butterflies filled her stomach.
"It was awesome," said Hurst, 17, who will graduate from high school next month."There were so many people coming back to watch my first putt. I was shaking."
The scenario set up for Hurst was similar to the one she faced a week earlier when she finished asrunner-up at the Louisiana Pelican Classic. Hurst hada four-stroke advantage going into the final roundover Seoul, South Korea, rookie M.J. Hur, only to see it slip away in a playoff.
"It was really the first time I've been in that position," Hurst said. "I learned a lot from it."
Today's final round was a putting exhibition throughout the day between Hurst and Prange. Hurst only needed 10 putts on her first nine holes while Prange finished her day with a 65 (-7) and was 15-under par for the tournament.
Hurst picked up right where she left off when the final round started after making an eagle on the par-5, 18th hole to conclude second-round play just two hours before in the morning. Starting the final round, she promptly made another eagle on her first hole as she teed offat 12:12 p.m. Hurst knew momentum was on her side.
The teen'sfirst professional trophy was filled to the brim with fresh jalapeno peppers. To continue tradition, Hurst tooka huge bite out of a pepper only to be followed by several bottles of water and a biscuit.
"Is it OK if I eat the whole thing?" Hurst inquired with shy confidence before heading up to give her victory speech.
Young admirers were there to catch a rising star as fans and autograph seekers swarmed Hurst for pictures and signatures after she made her final putt.
The winner of the Duramed FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament last November will miss this week's El Paso Golf Classic for the LPGA's SemGroup Championship in Broken Arrow, Okla., Hurst is playing on a sponsor's exemption.
"My goal is to just make the cut," Hurst said. "I just need to go out and focus on my game one shot at a time."
Hurst will then receive her high school diploma during the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship May 18-20 before rejoining the Tour in time for the Aurora Health Care Championship in June.
Prange still gave Hurst all she could handle on Sunday, making six birdies in a stretch of eight holes and closed the gap to one stroke after making birdie on No. 13.
"I got focused and in the zone and made the most of each individual shot and didn't let one shot affect another," said Prange, a two-time Tour winner. "The flatstick was my best friend today. I've been working my tail off to get to this point."
Prange, who was a 2007 LPGA Tour member, says she is happy with the direction she is headed and was pleased with her all-around effort this week.
"I put up a good fight, played the whole round and I didn't let the way she (Vicky) was playing beat me down," Prange said.
Koko Hurst, Vicky's mother and caddie, added, "She (Prange) was making everything on the greens today."
If history holds true, Hurst will be joining prior McAllen, Texas, winners Virada Nirapathpongporn (2005), Kristy McPherson (2006) and Emily Bastel (2007) on the LPGA Tour next year, a trend she would like to see continue.
"My goal is to make it to the LPGA Tour," Hurst said. "I'm just playing with the same mindset I had as a junior and giving it the best I have."
With the win, Hurst jumped to the top of the money list with $22,277 through four events. As a special bonus, Hurst continuedtitle sponsor Duramed's season-long promotion of the Sunday Low-Round Award, receiving an 8 GB Apple iPod Touch.
The Duramed FUTURES Tour heads west through the Lone Star State for the $80,000 El Paso Golf Classic this week. Mo Martin of Altadena, Calif., is the defending champion in the field.
For real-time scoring and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high 88 degrees and winds blowing southeast at 8 mph. Scattered severe thunderstorms developing later in the afternoon with a 60 percent chance of precipitation.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images