Amateur Vicky Hurst Wins Tour’s Qualifying Tournament
LAKELAND, Fla., Nov. 9, 2007 – More than one coach in America is waiting for the telephone to ring with news from top-ranked junior Vicky Hurst. And more than one college women’s golf program courting the talented teen would love to add the nation’s best girl player to its roster next fall.
But for now, they must wait for Hurst to decide which direction to take in her young career. She secured exempt status on the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour by winning the Tour’s ninth annual qualifying tournament. She carded rounds of 72-68-72-71 to win by one shot at 283 (-5) in the 72-hole event that concluded today at Cleveland Heights Golf Course.
“It’s like starting my career,” said Hurst, 17, of Melbourne, Fla. “Playing this qualifier and winning it kind of starts everything with a bang. I won it without playing amazing golf and I know I can improve so much. Now I also know where I stand.”
Hurst probably has had a good idea of where she stands for a long time, but to come out on top as an amateur in a full field of 312 professional and amateur players from 30 nations in a four-round event made a compelling statement this week.
That statement was especially clear on the last hole today when Hurst hit a 108-yard soft pitching-wedge approach into the wind to four feet from the hole. She trailed amateur Sara Brown by one shot going into the final hole. Playing in the same final pairing, Brown pulled her approach into the 18th green, and then watched her greenside chip roll 40 feet past the hole. Hurst made her birdie putt and benefited from the two-shot swing on the last hole for the win when Brown couldn’t save par.
“She can bomb it and she has a good head on her shoulders,” said Brown, 21, a Michigan State University senior from Tucson, Ariz., who carded a final-round 74 and finished second at 284 (-4). “Definitely, the sky’s the limit for her. I’d be surprised if she goes to college and if she doesn’t, I can’t say that I blame her. She’s ready [for the pros] now.”
With the tournament field rotating on three courses prior to today’s final round, Hurst made a gradual progression up the leaderboard as players toured Lakeland’s Cleveland Heights Golf Course, Huntington Hills Golf & Country Club and Schalamar Creek Golf Club in the first 54 holes. By the third round, Hurst had climbed into a share of second with recent Wake Forest University grad Mandy Goins of Frankfort, Ky., and Ya-Ni Tseng of Taipei, Taiwan, winner of the LPGA’s California Sectional Tournament. Brown held a two-shot lead after three rounds.
But while her ball striking was solid, Tseng wrestled with her putting today, carding 36 putts with two three-putt greens on her last four holes. She posted a final-round score of 76 to tumble into a tie for fifth at even-par 288 with Goins and two other players. Goins also posted a four-over score of 76.
“I don’t know what happened today,” said Tseng, who says she will refocus for the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament later this month. “My body just didn’t listen to me.”
Goins really only suffered one bad hole, but that quadruple-bogey-8 on the par-four fourth hole was enough to rock the former Deacon back on her heels. She pushed her tee shot into a water hazard, re-teed, and then hit her approach into the hazard again. Goins took a drop, hit her approach past the hole and then two-putted for an 8.
“As hard as it was, I had to tell myself that there were a lot of holes left to play,” said Goins, who also will play in the LPGA’s Final Q-School this month. “I just had to catch my breath and regain my composure. A birdie on the eighth hole settled me down again.”
While the final pairing drew the most attention, amateur Chella Choi, 17, of Seoul, Korea charged up the leaderboard with a final-round score of 71 to finish third at 285 (-3). Rookie pro Rachel Newren of Salt Lake City, Utah moved into fourth place at one-over 73 to move into fourth at 287 (-1).
Brown had her chances all day today and held onto the lead by a thread to the very end. The plucky collegian hit 14 greens in regulation and missed only three fairways, but 34 putts would separate her from winning and finishing second. Even after the round, Brown sat in a golf cart and lamented that she hit approach shots within 15 feet or less on eight greens and converted the one-putt only twice.
“I hit it really solid, but my putter quit on me today,” said Brown, who will complete her college eligibility with the Spartans next spring before turning professional after the NCAA Championship. “Still, I’m very happy with the way I played and I’m excited to get back to college.”
And while Hurst didn’t rip up the field this week, she got it done. She accomplished her goals of making the 54-hole player cut, earning a spot on the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour and proved that graduation day is closer than some might think. The teen graduates from Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in May, turns 18 in June, and says that she and her mother, Koko, will hit the highway for tournament golf as soon as school is out.
Hurst also plans to open the 2008 season with the Duramed FUTURES Tour at its Florida events. But the question still remains: Will Vicky Hurst play 2008 as an amateur or as a professional?
“Definitely by March or before, I’ll know,” said Hurst, the AJGA’s 2007 Rolex Junior Player of the Year with three tournament wins. “I’ve been worrying about this for a year and I’m probably leaning toward turning pro, but anything can change. I’ll practice and be confident with my decision.”
Until that decision is made, Vicky Hurst isn’t touching the phone.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Sunny and clear with a slight breeze. Temperatures in the mid-70s.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100, Ext. 2 and at [email protected]