MASON, Ohio, Second-year professional Whitney Wade gave her father a pretty memorable Father's Day gift today. With Dad on the bag, the pint-size Kentuckian rallied from six shots back to fire a 5-under-par 66 to win the $125,000 Duramed Championship at 204 (-9). This year's event was presented by Time Warner Cable.
She edged good pal Jean Reynolds (67) of Newnan, Ga., who finished second at 205 (-8) and third-place finisher Misun Cho (69) of Cheongju, South Korea, who carded a 54-hole total of 206 (-7) on the Grizzly Course at The Golf Center at Kings Island.
Both Reynolds and Cho already are tournament winners this season on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, so they knew how to close out a win. But Wade, playing three hours from home this week, had only won state women's open titles in Kentucky (2007), Ohio (2008) and Colorado (2009). The nearly 5-foot-3 Kentucky firecracker was itching to prove to herself that she could win here against the some of the world's best young women professionals.
"I knew it was tight today, but I didn't exactly know where I stood," said Wade of Glasgow, Ky., "Jean was firing at pins and making birdies and we were going back and forth with each other. Our group was having a good time and getting things done."
Reynolds, Wade and amateur Victoria Kiser (70) of Orlando, Fla., who finished seventh at 4-under 209, were playing in the second-to-last group behind leader Pernilla Lindberg of Bollnas, Sweden. Lindberg blistered this precision-demanding 6,203-yard, par-71 course in the first round to tie LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan's 1984 course record of 8-under-par 63. The Swede extended her lead on the second day to take a three-shot advantage into today's final round.
But today was a different story for Lindberg, the former All-American from Oklahoma State University who was playing in her third tournament as a professional. Rather than earning her first win as a pro in wire-to-wire fashion, she stumbled early with bogeys on her first two holes, a par save from 10 feet on the third, and more deep breaths than she can remember to get settled back into the kind of game she had played in the first two rounds.
Lindberg countered her opening bogeys with birdies on the sixth and ninth holes and even held on to her lead after she hooked her drive into the trees on No. 10 and scrambled for bogey. Her undoing probably came when she carded an uncharacteristic double-bogey on the par-4 12th hole after she flew the green into a water hazard, was forced to take her drop on a severe slope and chunked her chip. At that point, she had slipped into a four-way tie with Cho, Reynolds and Wade.
"It was really one bad swing that cost way too much," said Lindberg, who finished with a 4-over-par score of 75 to tie for fourth at 207 (-6) with Cindy Lacrosse (72) of Tampa, Fla.
"Of course I'm disappointed because I went out there today trying to win the tournament," Lindberg added. "But a lot of good things happened this week. I need to remember that."
Wade was cruising along on the back nine and rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to take the lead. At that point, Reynolds and Lindberg were still in striking distance, one shot back.
"It was kind of like match play and we were definitely feeding off each other," said Reynolds, who played one semester of college golf with Wade at the University of Georgia.
Down the stretch, Cho birdied the 15th, but played the last three holes at even par, while Lindberg failed to get up and down for par on the 17th and dropped another shot. That left the former Georgia Bulldog teammates to duke it out on the 18th. If Reynolds were to birdie and Wade made par, they would be forced into extra holes. If Reynolds were to birdie and Wade made bogey, Reynolds would win. But if Wade were to birdie, she would just about be untouchable.
"There was a lot going on by the time we got to 18," said Reynolds, who won the Tour's season-opening event in Winter Haven, Fla. "I was starting to see stars because I knew that I needed to make that putt."
Reynolds drained her 18-footer for birdie to tie it up. That left Wade staring at a five-foot, uphill birdie chance for the win. Only Cho, playing one group back in the last pairing, could catch Wade, but to do that, she would have to hole out from the fairway on the 526-yard par-5 finishing hole.
"I had missed an eight-foot chance for birdie on the 16th hole that my momma could have made, so I knew I had to make that birdie on the 18th," said Wade. "When it went in, all I could think was, 'Did this really happen?'"
Indeed it had. Winning today probably sunk in a little when fellow players doused her with buckets of beer. Or when she held up a hand-blown custom-designed art "trophy," or when somebody handed her an oversize cardboard check for $17,500, or when someone else handed her an Apple iTouch for carding the day's lowest round. And maybe it registered when fellow Kentuckians from just across the Ohio River drove to this Cincinnati suburb to root her on and stopped by to congratulate her as she tugged at her soggy beer-soaked clothing.
Or maybe it finally sunk in when her dad, Mark Wade, adjusted his sunglasses and apologized that he "might get choked up" while trying to talk about walking every step of the week with his daughter, carrying her bag, and watching her win her first title on the LPGA's developmental tour. He had carried her bag on Father's Day last year at the U.S. Women's Open and proudly bit his lip when she made a tricky putt for par to make the 36-hole cut.
Now, she had won on a professional tour, beating 143 other competitors, so close to home. And she had taken a big step toward her goal of earning 2010 LPGA status, leaping from 42nd to No. 7 on the Duramed FUTURES Tour's season money list. It was a father's dream to see his child take another giant step in a game he had taught her to love.
"For this to happen today, it's just icing on the cake," said her dad, smiling.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty images
photo Getty Images