The Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic had everything any golf fan would want in a season-opening tournament. From the first tee shot on Thursday to the final putt on Sunday, the leaderboard remained dynamic and volatile. The players sprinkled an abundance of birdies and eagles throughout the rounds. Karin Echer’s Ace evoked smiles all around. We struggled with the players through their occasional bogeys that popped up and strained with Paula Creamer when she thoroughly botched things up with a triple on Saturday.
Absent Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen the field vibrated with energy and ambition. Lydia Ko, the rookie who’s not really a rookie, started hot and played an impressive first round. She and Meena Lee set a brisk pace for the field to follow, and follow they did, with Solheim Cup teammates Paula Creamer and Jessica Korda picking up where Ko and Lee left off. Playing together, Creamer and Korda matched each other shot-for-shot and strolled along the fairways chatting and smiling like the golf buddies we know they are. When the cards were signed and everybody was in the clubhouse Korda was on the top of the board with a one-shot lead over Creamer and Ko had dropped down to a share of fifth place
The leaderboard reconfigured again on Saturday, and then again on Sunday. The third round included 12 eagles, six on the 18th hole, and Karine Icher’s Ace, a squawking parrot and several stunning stumbles, including Creamer’s astonishing triple bogey on the par-5 18th hole. Through it all Na Yeon Choi and 2013 Solheim Cup rookie Lizette Salas played steady, consistent golf and ended up on top of the board, Salas trailing Choi by a single shot.
Natalie Gulbis, playing solo, led off the Sunday round. Salas fired off two birdies in the first three holes and pulled ahead of Choi. Stacy Lewis pulled even with Salas, then Korda birdied the 10th and pulled even with Lewis and Salas. The back nine turned into a classic Sunday Shootout when Na Yeon Choi joined the leaders. Some putts dropped. Others stopped short or rolled on by. In the end, there was a putting contest on the 18th green between Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda and it all came down to Lewis’s par and Korda’s birdie.
Beyond the Top-10 Spotlight
That was the top of the board, where the spotlight shined brightly. But there were at least four other stories embedded in the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic that didn’t make the headlines, yet are more than worth telling.
First, there’s the Saga of Jenny Suh, who lost her LPGA card after a dismal 2013 season and got sent back to the Symetra Tour. Ranked Number 519 by Rolex, with no wins or top-10 finishes on her resume — her only victory came in 2009 at the Alliance Bank Classic on the LPGA Futures Tour — with no 2013 winnings in the bank, Suh decided to take a stab at the Pure Silk-Bahamas.
With her boyfriend on the bag, she played a stunning game during the Monday qualifying round and was in the field on Thursday! At the end of the first round Suh was sharing third place on the board with Michelle Wie. She played a flawless second round and carded 66, good enough keep her in the top-10 on the board for her Sunday start. Suh finished the Pure Silk in a tie for 13th place, just outside the top-10, but certainly affirmed and ready to take another run at life on the Tour.
Amelia Lewis’s Pure Silk-Performance tells a familiar story of early career struggles. Lewis started her third year on Tour at the Pure Silk ranked at 222 by Rolex, still hunting her first victory or top-10 finish. Lewis entered 13 events, made four cuts, and won slightly more than $32K in 2013, just above the poverty line. She could easily feel discouraged about her career choice. But she came off the first tee of the Pure Silk-Bahamas first round strong and stayed with it. At the turn she was three shots under par and by the end of the first round she was ten-way tie for third place and keeping company with Stacy Lewis and Jessica Korda.
Lewis bobbled her second round and dropped down the board but gathered herself and shot a stunning comeback third round, bogey-free with three birdies and two eagles. That brought her back up to a share of fifth place. Playing her Sunday round with Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked golfer in the tournament, Amelia Lewis found her game. She finished just outside the top-10, but she’s on the tee again in two weeks at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, this time with a bit more money and some Race to the CME Globe points, and now she knows she can do it!
Shining the spotlight on Line Vedel tells a Rookie’s Tale. Vedel, who’s Danish, is starting her LPGA rookie year with both amateur and LET experience on her resume. She exudes power and her challenge now will be to harness it and put it to good use. As an amateur Vedel won the 2010 Moelle Masters and she claimed her first pro victory at the 2012 Allianz Ladies Slovak Open.
The Pure Silk-Bahamas was Vedel’s first LPGA event, and she managed the event nicely. She played well enough to make the cut and went into the third round one shot over par. Then she settled into a steady game rhythm. The bogeys that had marred her score during the first half of the tournament vaporized. She followed her three-birdie third round with a six-birdie, one-bogey fourth round and finished her first LPGA event at a very respectable seven shots under par, not inside the top-10, but certainly in the money. By tee time at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open on February 13, she’ll have a Rolex Ranking and some Race to the CME Globe points in her column. Play on, and play well Line Vedel!
Golfers who have bad days don’t get much press, unless they’re Tiger Woods, who seems to inspire endless public speculation about his athletic ups and downs. But golf is a capricious game and as every golfer knows, we lose more rounds than we win, even when we’re playing from the top of the board. The Pure Silk-Bahamas was Beatriz Recari’s turn on the bottom of the board. It’s not a place she visits often.
Recari, who’s Rolex Ranked Number 19 consistently plays a game that keeps her in the upper third of the leaderboard. She’s likely to lead the Spanish team to the 2014 International Crown in July. But she couldn’t get her driver or her fairway woods or her irons or her flat stick going at the Pure Silk-Bahamas. Will she have everything back in synch at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open? I’d bet on it. One tournament does not a season make, especially not for Beatriz Recari.