GETTYSBURG, Pa., Aug. 26, 2007 – The next-to-last tournament was staged in a town so steeped in American history that the very characters from the pages of the past showed up in Civil War-era costume and spent three nights in an encampment beside the 10th fairway.
And if champion Vikki Laing searches her memory, she’ll recall hearing a bagpiper squeeze out the melody of “Scotland Forever” this morning immediately after the completion of the storm-suspended second round and the start of the final round. And she won’t likely forget a deep, thundering cannon blast that resounded across The Links At Gettysburg course, making her jump in her shoes outside the scoring tent before today’s final round began.
Perhaps it was coincidental, but it also was fitting at the end of 54 holes when the native of Mussellburgh, Scotland lifted the trophy – a hand-blown, one-of-a-kind glass cannon – and celebrated her first professional win with rounds of 70-68-69 for a 207 (-9) total.
“This has been a dream of mine to win and this whole week has been kind of neat,” said Laing, 26, also a non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour. “I jumped out of my skin a few times when they shot a cannon, but it’s been a great experience that I’ll never forget.”
Like 68 other players on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, Laing was forced to return to the course this morning to complete her second round. By day’s end, she had played 30 holes of golf and after two rounds, she had grabbed a one-shot lead of 138 (-6) over top-ranked Emily Bastel, at 139.
But Laing wasn’t done. After the second round, she uttered something about “not second-guessing” her putting lines on the greens. And when asked if she was ready to win, the Scot added with a sly smile, “That’s the plan.”
And if those folks dressed in Confederate grays and Union blues had a plan to teach a golf tour of international players a few things about America’s early struggles, then Laing’s plan this week intended to minimize her own struggle in the thick, wet rough of a golf course that had received more than three inches of rain this week. In today’s final round, she carded five birdies and one bogey. She saved par on the third hole with a downhill 20-footer, and again from six feet on the sixth hole.
And she did it with hard-charging Violeta Retamoza breathing down her collar. But the rookie from Aguascalientes, Mexico ran into trouble on the back nine with an errant driver and carded a final-round score of 70, finishing second at 210 (-6). The Mexican limped in with three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey on her second nine.
“I started out really good, but I just couldn’t hit any fairways on the back,” said Retamoza, who hit only eight fairways in regulation today. “I knew if I could just hit my drives in the fairway, I’d have a chance -- but I didn’t.”
And for most of the afternoon, Laing was in total command. She got up and down for par when she needed a save. And she was strong enough to muscle shots out of the thatch when she missed a fairway on the 6,425-yard course.
“She can hit shots that a lot of women can’t hit,” said Bastel (77) of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who dropped into a tie for eighth at even-par 216. “The course got a lot tougher today and it was all about who adapted the best. Vikki did. She went for it when she had the green light and she played really great all week.”
Rookie Song Yi Choi (67) of Seoul, Korea and Brandi Jackson (69) of Greenville, S.C., made a late final-round charge, but both came up short to tie for third at 212 (-4).
Playing 27 holes today, Choi carded six birdies and one three-putt bogey. Jackson’s final round was highlighted by seven birdies and two double-bogeys – one of which was a four-putt green.
“I know I can win out here if I can just not shoot a 76 on the first day,” said Jackson, who carded rounds of 76-67-69, and who is still seeking her first professional title. “Vikki is very steady. She’s got a great golf swing and a great attitude.”
“Her temperament is perfect for the game because it’s always the same,” added player Mo Martin of Altadena, Calif., who tied for 34th and won earlier this season in El Paso, Texas. “When I saw her between the two rounds today, I told her, ‘Don’t step on the 18th tee unless you have the lead.’ She wasn’t going to come in second again and today, I think Vikki was completely in command.”
That’s the way it appeared. And that is the way her 2007 season has panned out for the former 2002 Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup Team member. She has posted five top-10 finishes, including a tie for third in Kansas City, where the rough was dense, and a tie for second in Morgantown, W.Va., where heavy rains also suspended play, doused the course and tested the patience of every player in the field.
Laing’s $14,000 winner’s check moved her from 17th to No. 8 on the season money list with one tournament remaining. Players in the top five after the final event earn fully exempt LPGA status for 2008.
“Vikki’s attitude is tireless and her persistence is paying off,” said player Gina Umeck of Redlands, Calif., who played for UCLA against Laing when the Scot was on the women’s team at the University of California-Berkeley. “I don’t think it has entered her mind what point of the season she’s in.”
What has registered with Laing is that finally, as a professional, her play is matching up to her reputation as one of the top young amateur players from the British Isles.
“I’ve got to be pretty pleased to have three rounds under par,” said Laing. “Consistency is what I’ve been lacking.”
But not this week and not today. And not because of storm delays or atypical sightings of Confederate soldiers guarding bridges to par-three greens or even a bearded General Robert E. Lee jostling along in full regalia to get out of the rain beside tan 20-somethings in golf clothes.
On the 18th green at day’s end, Vikki Laing raised her own cannon. Shot for shot, she was in command. She led her own charge all week. And in this modern-day Battle of Gettysburg, even Lee and his soldiers stood at attention greenside to witness a happier ending on hallowed ground.
** This year’s second annual tournament was presented by Klein Homes and Hanover Honda.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Overcast and fair with a high temperature of 82 degrees. Winds around 7 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse