Wright is Right On in NY

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Futures TourALTAMONT, N.Y. -- For what may have seemed like an eternity to Lindsey Wright of Albury, Australia, she finally emerged Sunday from a long shadow cast by former Pepperdine University teammate Katherine Hull.
 
The comparisons began when they both came to the California University from Australia four years ago. Hull, 21, is a tall, powerfully built, athletic player who could easily put down her clubs and sub as a soccer goalkeeper or basketball power forward; Wright is a small, petite Englishwoman who moved with her family to the Land Down Under at age nine and turned to books and film for entertainment. Hull, of Queensland, has the quick smile and ready handshake with a casual Aussie 'no worries mate' attitude; Wright has a polite, but quiet English demeanor with an almost shy approach to strangers.
 
But there was nothing reticent or understated about the way Wright won her first professional tournament at the GE Futures Professional Golf Classic at Orchard Creek Golf Club in this Albany, N.Y. suburb. And there was nothing mousy about the way she smacked her 6-iron second shot 190 yards just short of the 485-yard, par-5 18th hole to outlast veterans Michele Fuller and Lisa Hall in a one-hole playoff.
 
Wright shot an even-par 71 and played steady throughout the day as the scoreboard fluctuated dramatically all afternoon on the 6,166-yard course. But her playoff chip to three feet for birdie clinched the win and broke the deadlock at 8-under-par 205 to give Wright her first professional title and allow her to become the second Aussie from Pepperdine to win a Futures Tour event in the last six tournaments. Sure, Hull beat her to the punch five events ago, winning her pro debut in early June and repeating the following week. But this time, it was Wright who took the win and the $8,400 champions check at the $60,000 event. This time, it was Wrights tournament.
 
'This is amazing and Ive been dreaming about this for ages,' said Wright, who carded rounds of 65-69-71 for the week and played with Hull in the final round. 'Ive always doubted myself, but out here, its all about belief and confidence.'
 
Wright could have been rattled if shed allowed herself to get sidetracked. Fuller, of Jupiter, Fla., tied Wright for the lead with four holes to play and eventually took the outright lead with a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th. But the former LPGA Tour player gave back a shot on the next hole and never got it back. In the playoff, her second shot into the green kicked into the right water hazard and she could score no better than par.
 
'I three-putted the 17th two days in a row, which didnt help,' said Fuller. 'And I tried to go for it on 18, but I aimed for the pin and was too far out right.'
 
Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England and a former LPGA Rookie of the Year, played her back-nine holes in three under and seemed poised to win for the first time this year. She could have moved to 9-under for the lead and challenged the three groups behind her to a final-hole chase if she would have drained a five-foot birdie putt on 18.
 
'I played too much break,' said Hall, who tied for second with Fuller at 205. Halls second shot into the 18th green in the playoff rolled through the green and into the back water hazard. Like Fuller, she could do no better than par with a chip and two-foot putt.
 
Even Hull, both a friend and nemesis to Wright in the past years, had a last chance to steal the thunder of her old teammate. Hull had a chip for eagle on the last hole that would have tied Wright at 8-under par, but she settled for birdie and finished at 7-under 206 with an even-par final-round 71.
 
'Lindsey played well today and shes the one to beat,' said Hull, as she waited and watched her former teammate try to earn her first professional title. Hull later was spotted giving their college coach a play-by-play description of Wrights playoff over a cell phone. When Wright was eventually honored as the champion on the 18th green, Hull was snapping pictures of the awards ceremony.
 
'Theyre very competitive, but if it hadnt been for both of them pushing each other so hard over the years, they wouldnt be as good as they are,' said Pepperdine coach Laurie Gibbs. 'That competitiveness is why they both are so successful. It doesnt surprise me at all that Lindsey won.'
 
And perhaps even more importantly to Wright, it should come as no surprise that she has what it takes to be successful on the next level. That wasnt crystal clear to her when she first arrived on the Futures Tour in mid June. And it wasnt even clear early last week when she came into this event with only a season-best tie for 37th, a missed cut and a tie for 50th in her three previous events.
 
'I need to work on a lot of technical things and I need to get stronger,' she said. 'Ive had to refocus, find a place to live and get settled. I thought about going home at one point, but I knew Id either have to work in McDonalds or in a factory with mom and dad. I decided to suck it up and stick it out. And I decided I have to work hard at this if I want to do well.'
 
Wright not only played well, but she finally cast her own shadow on the tournament field. She became the 10th first-time season winner in 13 Futures Tour events. And she set a new stage for the future that could usher in the same kind of rivalry that has made LPGA stars Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam push each other to greatness.
 
Make no mistake, even a quiet, soft-spoken bookworm like Lindsey Wright still has a burning desire to win at the highest level. And her old pal Hull may share that stage with her for years to come.
 
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