Nirapathpongporn Collects 2nd Futures Tour Win


Futures TourBLOOMFIELD, Conn. -- Friday's opening round of the $70,000 CIGNA Chip In For A Cure Futures Golf Classic started with a soaker that canceled play and ended today with a dramatic come-from-behind win by a player with magical wedges on a ruthless golf course.
Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, fired a final-round 69 to post a two-day total of 142 (-2) in the event shortened by rain. The former Duke University player earned her second win of the season and moved into the No. 1 spot on the Tour's money list with her champion's check for $9,800 at the event presented by Lincoln Financial Group.
'It's sweet, very sweet,' said Nirapathpongporn, who began the day three shots behind leader Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea. 'I like to play on a more difficult shot-making course and I knew par would be good.'
Certainly, a field of players would have traded a few boxes of Pro V1s for par today on the toothy Gillette Ridge Golf Club -- an Arnold Palmer creation that proved to be a challenge in its many ever-changing faces. When more than two inches of rain soaked the opening round, the 6,340-yard course played long and hard in next-to-impossible weather elements. Friday's round was ultimately canceled when only 21 players had completed 18 holes by the time the round was suspended at 1:43 p.m.
When play resumed on Saturday, Gillette Ridge played soggy and slow. By today's final round, the course had drained, the greens and fairways had firmed up and players felt as if they played a wedge on every other shot just to get out of trouble as fairways and greens ran differently than any of the prior rounds.
But not for Nirapathpongporn, whose wedges were like the tools of an artisan deftly chipping away at the leader board. The player coaxed her 84-yard wedge shot to 3 feet for birdie on the 7th hole, then saved par from 2 feet with a 74-yard wedge on the ninth. Approach shots with wedges from 100 yards on the 12th and 13th holes earned her a share of the lead with Seon-Hwa Lee, before an 8-iron approach to 9 feet on the 14th gave the player a one-shot lead over Lee.
'I wasn't thinking a birdie would move me up,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'I was really just involved in my own shots and was trying to execute. I didn't realize I had birdied three holes in a row.'
But the former NCAA champion's demonstration in distance control wasn't over yet. On the tricky final two holes, she lobbed a gutsy 98-yard pitching wedge into the wind and softly landed it to 8 feet for par. On the 18th, she hit a perfect 110-yard wedge just over a gaping bunker lip to set up another par on a hole that was adding numbers to player's scores more often than not. Each shot was remarkable in its timing and level of difficulty, leaving galleries to mutter dismay at what first appeared to be an ill-timed error, only to seconds later, marvel at the beauty of the stroke. The Thai player was a magician, an artist, a daredevil and a savvy athlete all rolled into one.
'I give her the number and she trusts the yardages,' said her caddie Chris McCalmont. 'She goes with her gut. Oui has so much talent and ability, and under pressure -- with those pins today -- this was huge.'
Nirapathpongporn played her way into the lead this afternoon and turned the field into a bunch of chasers. Kim, who started out the day with a one-shot lead over Bo Mi Suh and Lee, faded with an 80, and dropped into a tie for 22nd at 6-over-par 150. Suh, of Seoul, Korea, struggled with a 6-over 78 to fall into a tie for 18th at 149 (+5). And Lee only managed to card a 1-over-par 73 to finish tied for second at even-par 144 with Jamie Stevenson of Mayfield, Utah.
'I had a lot of chances but I didn't make them count,' said Lee of Chonan, Korea, who hit 15 greens but used 34 putts in today's final round.