Catherine Cartwright of Bonita Springs, Fla., who turned professional at age 17 right out of high school, won her first professional event at the $95,000 Isleta Casino & Resort Futures Golf Classic after a dramatic final round 67 ( 5) that put her into a playoff with Candy Hannemann. Hannemann, of Rio de Janiero, Brazil, who scorched the front nine with a four under 32, then added three more birdies on the back for a new course record 65 at the 6,470 yard Isleta Eagle Golf Course.
But even that bogey free birdie fest on Sunday failed to stem Cartwright's rolling momentum at the Tour's largest purse of the year. The 6 foot 1, 20 year old Floridian started the day at two over par, then birdied holes four and five to make the turn at even par. She tied Hannemann for the lead with a birdie on the 12th hole.
Hannemann knew Cartwright was at her heels. 'I just wanted to finish strong,' said the former Duke All American, who carded an ugly 80 in Friday's first round that battered players with 50 mph winds. Hannemann could have focused on packing her suitcases Saturday, but instead, she blistered her first nine holes with a 30 and fired a 68 in the second round. Her 32 on the front nine Sunday brought her to 10 under par for the weekend on the course's front side and it gave her confidence coming into Sunday's homestretch.
Hannemann rolled in a 30 footer on the 15th to regain sole possession of the lead, then took a two shot cushion at the par 5 17th with a 12 foot eagle chance that fell short. The birdie at 17 told Cartwright that Hannemann was drawing closer to her first professional title. But the Brazilian settled for par from 30 feet on 18, leaving the door slightly ajar for Cartwright, who was playing one group back.
'This was the best round of golf I've ever played because I was aggressive the whole way,' said Hannemann, who hit 17 greens and used 26 putts for Sunday's final round.
But great golf is sometimes topped by better timing. And Cartwright's timing was impeccable. She hit a sand wedge to two feet for birdie on the 17th hole to draw within one shot of Hannemann, then fired her 8 iron approach to 18 feet on the final hole. As Hannemann watched from greenside, Cartwright drilled her birdie putt right in the heart of the cup to force a playoff. When the two revisited the 18th hole for the sudden death playoff, Cartwright coaxed her 143 yard, 8 iron approach shot to six feet, then rolled in the birdie. Hannemann settled for a two putt par from 22 feet.
'After I saw I was one shot back after 15, I knew I needed a few more birdies,' said Cartwright, who earned $13,300 for the win and moved to No. 2 on the Futures Tour Money List. 'Low enough is never low enough. But I felt really calm, maybe because I didn't have any doubt when I went into the playoff. All day, I felt this could be my tournament.'
Hannemann was runner up at 213 ( 3), followed by surprise contender Young Jo of Suwon, Korea, who fired a final round 69 ( 3) to finish at 215 ( 1) in her debut Futures Tour event. Erika Wicoff of Hartford City, Ind., who was a co leader after 36 holes, finished fourth at 217 (+1).
First round leader Russy Gulyanamitta of Rayong, Thailand, who succumbed to back spasms and withdrew after five holes in Saturday's second round, missed her chance to play in Sunday's perfect weather or to spoil the season's string of six first time Futures winners.
That was just fine with Cartwright, who carried her own bag for three rounds and celebrated Mother's Day long distance on a cell phone as she walked to receive her first winner's check.
Note: Lesley Henderson of Mandeville, La., scored her first hole in one in a professional event Sunday at the Isleta Casino & Resort Futures Golf Classic. Henderson used a 4 iron to ace the 168 yard sixth hole.