LAFAYETTE, La., April 22, 2007 – Fifth-year pro Janell Howland had waited a long time for her first win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour and she wasn’t about to let her best chance pass by today in the final round of the $75,000 Louisiana Pelican Classic.
Howland had plenty of challengers, including hard-charging Mollie Fankhauser, who birdied her last two holes to move into a share of the lead. But Howland stayed focused. She birdied three of her last four holes, ramming in a 15-footer on the 18th for a final-round 68 -- avoiding a playoff. Howland finished the week at 11-under-par 205, one shot ahead of runner-up Fankhauser at 206 (-10).
“Today was an amazing day,” said Howland, 29, of st1:place w:st="on">Boise, Idaho, who fired rounds of 65-72-68 and either led or shared the lead after every round. “I’m thrilled, but I know it’s a long season and I have to keep doing what I’m doing.”
The Wetlands was a different course than last year, when steady winds blew up to 20 mph for 54 holes and kept the winning score at just under even par on the water-laced 6,437-yard, par 72 course. And while the wind picked up today in the final round from earlier in the week, the ideal scoring conditions gave players the long-awaited green light to fire at flagsticks and to go low.
Fankhauser’s final-round 66 never gave Howland room to relax. Playing three groups ahead of Howland, who was in the final pairing, the 2006 Tour winner hit all 18 greens in regulation and carded seven birdies in her single-bogey round. With four birdies on the back nine alone, Fankhauser’s charge grabbed Howland’s attention. Howland had to respond. In the end, it was Fankhauser who played the waiting game. That ended when Howland willed her final putt into the bottom of the cup for the win.
“I wanted to finish in double digits [under par] today, and I was happy that it was a steady day with good ball striking,” said Fankhauser, of Columbus, Ohio, a rookie on the LPGA Tour. “I had no control over what anybody else shot.”
All day long, the scoreboard was active with red numbers. If it wasn’t Fankhauser, it was Liz Janangelo or Korean Ha-Na Chae or rookie Seo-Jae Lee making a run for the Tour’s fourth tournament title. Chae bogeyed the 17th to fall out of contention, shooting a 69 and tying for sixth at 209 (-7) with Allison Fouch (71) of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Janangelo’s birdie attempt from 14 feet on the 18th left her with a par putt from three feet. In an uncharacteristic hiccup, her short putt lipped out for bogey on the last. She carded a final-round 69 to tie for fourth with Jenny Gleason (71) of Clearwater, Fla., at 208 (-8).
“I put a good roll on it, but in order to make it, you have to get it there,” said Janangelo, of W. Hartford, Conn., who won the Tour’s second event in Tampa last month, and moved back into the top spot on the Tour’s money list with this week’s top-five finish.
Lee birdied the 16th, but flew the green on the 18th and had to hole out her greenside bunker shot to join a playoff at 10-under par. Her sand shot landed within two feet of the flagstick and she putted out for par.
“I’m happy, but a little bit disappointed,” said Lee, 19, of Seoul, Korea, who carded a final-round 68 to finish third at 207 (-9). “I had four lip-outs on the back nine.”
Even Kim Welch, who began the day tied for 47th, turned up the heat and threw in an early seven-under-par round of 65 today to move into a tie for eighth at 210 (-6). The Sacramento native’s bogey-free day was a timely career-low round.
And while she was too far off the lead to contend today, even rookie Onnarin “Moo” Sattayabanphot of Bangkok, Thailand got into the action with a rare double-eagle on the par-five 11th hole. The former Purdue University All-American hit her drive 290 yards, and then laced a hybrid 2-iron 223 yards into the hole for the albatross.
But in the last act of the 18-ring circus called a golf tournament, it was Howland’s event to win or lose. Certainly others gave it a shot, but by day’s end, it was the veteran who drained a 40-footer for birdie on the 15th, a birdie six-footer on the 16th and the last, definitive 15-foot uphill birdie on the 18th for her first title on the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
“It just takes time for you to believe in yourself, and now this will show Janell she can win out here,” said player Briana Vega of Andover, Mass., who shared an Orlando apartment with Howland and LPGA Tour member Kristy McPherson this winter. “Seeing her make that putt on 18 and watching her reaction showed how much she wanted it today. It was her time to win.”
Vega, Howland and McPherson had plenty of time to talk about their golf dreams during the winter off-season. McPherson finished fourth on the Tour’s 2006 money list and earned her 2007 LPGA Tour card. Vega and Howland turned their focus toward LPGA Q-School and fell short. That sent McPherson out on the LPGA Tour and Vega and Howland back to the Duramed FUTURES Tour this season.
“Kristy and Janell are such good friends that I think it was tough for both of them, but it also gave Janell a lot of motivation,” added Vega. “When you see your friends win or move on to the LPGA Tour, it shows that those things are within reach.”
With the LPGA Tour idle this week, McPherson traveled to Louisiana to cheer for her friends and to help caddie for Vega and Gleason during the tournament. Her timing was good. McPherson was able to watch Howland cap off a long-time goal.
“This is huge for her,” said McPherson, who won on this tour twice in 2006 and is now an LPGA Tour rookie. “If you can play with the girls out here, you can play with the girls at the next level. It’s early in the year and she’ll move into the top five on the money list. Janell will have a lot of motivation to stay there.”
With her $10,500 winner’s check, Howland did, in fact, leap from 15th on the Tour’s money list to third place. And Howland knows all too well that the top five players at the end of 19 tournaments go directly to the LPGA.
McPherson did it. And if Howland’s putter stays as toasty as an Idaho hot potato, the two good friends will be together again on the same tour, just like old times.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high temperature of 81 degrees with wind around 12 mph, gusting to 20 mph by late afternoon.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at [email protected]