Murphy could have really gone up in smoke right there in the cloud of sizzling pork. But instead, she steadied herself like a 14-year veteran pro, birdied the 14th hole from eight feet, and closed out the win in today's final round of the $60,000 M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic. She fired a 2-under-par 69 for a 54-hole total of 207 (-6) for her first victory since 2002.
'It feels great,' said Murphy, 37, a native of Tacoma, Wash. 'I haven't had a win in a couple of years. I don't win a lot playing golf.'
But what Murphy won was the war of attrition. In a week when the season's pressure finally bent the backs (and knees and wrists) of four players who withdrew with injuries, and on The Links at Erie Village course that required constant attention to detail and direction, the veteran used her years of hard licks to outlast the 144-player field on the tricky par-71, 6,224-yard track.
It was a week in which several top players, long hitters and season winners missed the cut because their straight shots weren't straight enough. And it was a week in which normally patient players were all but grinding their teeth to pencil in numbers on their scorecards they haven't written in years -- numbers like 8 and 10 on hole No. 7 -- a par-5, 510-yard dogleg right that required players to thread the needle on their tee shots between tight out-of-bounds stakes on the left and a gaping water hazard on the right. Top players like Aram Cho of Seoul, Korea and Nicole Perrot of Vina del Mar, Chile each scribbled 8s on their cards in the final round.
'You have to hit the balls where you want to play them,' said a disappointed Perrot, who started the day at 3 under par and finished at 3 over with a 6-over 77. 'I went O.B. on No. 2 for a double and I hit the water and three-putted on No. 7 for a triple-bogey. Those two holes cost me five shots today.'
Kris Tamulis of Naples, Fla., started the day tied for the lead with Allison Hanna, but she stumbled with bogeys on holes 4 and 9, then doubled at the 11th. The best Tamulis could do was post a 2-over-par 73 to finish tied for third at 210 with Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who carded a 3-under 68 today. Bastel finished with three birdies and no bogeys and a sense of relief by safely hitting 16 greens in regulation.
'The driver doesn't get you anywhere on this golf course,' Bastel said. 'I could have left it in the trunk of my car all week. Winning always comes down to putting, but this course brings accuracy more into play.'
Hanna had the best chance to chase Murphy and the only real chance to win the tournament in today's final round. With scores soaring, hopes plummeting and nerves on edge, it was a day that begged the question: Who wants to win this tournament, anyway?
Hanna had her hand in the air. The recent Ohio State University grad and Futures Tour rookie birdied the first hole to take the lead right out of the blocks. She bogeyed No. 4 to fall behind, but fought back with a birdie from three feet on No. 5 to let Murphy know she wasn't going to hand over the $8,400 winner's check without a tussle. But bogeys on No. 9 and No. 10 put Hanna a shot behind Murphy with eight holes to play.
'I had a hard time reading the greens today,' admitted Hanna, of Portland, Ore. 'The greens were getting a little firmer and even the chip shots rolled a little faster.'
Hanna felt she had birdie chances on each of the last four holes. Her 15-foot birdie attempt on the 17th stopped a dimple short. Her 10-foot birdie on the 18th left her one shot shy of forcing a playoff with Murphy, who was already in the clubhouse. Hanna carded an even-par 71 to finish at 5-under 208 for solo second.
'I always like to win, but all I can do is put myself in that position,' said Hanna, who finished third in her debut tournament as a pro back in late May. 'I have to hope this will prepare me for the next time.'
There were some final-round heroics from Kathy Choi-Rogers of Huntington Beach, Calif., who fired a 67 to jump into a tie for fifth with Kyeong Bae (68) and Sung Ah Yim (69), both of Seoul, Korea. Veteran Abby Pearson of Florence, S.C., fired a 5-under-par 66 on Sunday for a share of 18th place and bragging rights for the week's low 18-hole round.
But it was Murphy who was still standing at the end of the day. The disappointed faces had ambled on to their cars while Murphy, atypically social for a touring pro, chatted to fans, volunteers, kids and staff members as the scoring tent was broken down around her. Her 158-yard fairway bunker shot on the 18th had been a perfect 6-iron finish to 10 feet above the hole, which she two-putted for par. Her three-birdie, one-bogey round was good enough to win. And Murphy was satisfied.
'I'm a talker, but I don't talk a lot out there,' she said. 'I wish I could play like a goofball on the course, but I can't. I just get the job done.'
A member of the LPGA Tour in 1998, 2000 and 2001, Murphy is not sure she wants to return to the big leagues. Even jumping from No. 25 to No. 10 on the Futures Tour Money List with her win, she says she would simply like to 'have the option' to return to the LPGA Tour. She has a couple of job interviews lined up. She dreams of not packing up her custom van to travel week after week. She and husband, Dan Murphy, would like to 'be in one place' in Oregon, Colorado or New Mexico.
'I have other things I want to do,' she said. 'I have a life. I don't want to leave anything undone.'
And that's not likely to happen. Not for the player who emerged from the hotdog smoke with a smile on her face and a fire in her belly.