Just the wrong Aussie won, said Kylie Pratt of Mackay, Australia with a big grin. Pratt, of course, was the first-round leader and finished tied for ninth at 212. Her traveling compatriot, Lindsey Wright of Albury, Australia, was the winning Aussie. Wright took the gold in the tournaments title with the $10,500 champions check.
And the former Pepperdine University player did it with three rounds in the 60s, blistering the par-72, 6,621-yard Isleta Eagle Golf Course with a final-round 66 to win at 13-under-par 203.
Ive done a lot of hard work since I left college and this is so encouraging to come out and win this week, said Wright, a non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour who is playing her first full season on the Futures Golf Tour.
Wright started todays final round two shots behind rookie Aram Cho of Seoul, Korea. She put the pressure on Cho on the front nine with a 4-under-par performance of 32 that included three consecutive birdies on holes three, four and five, a bogey on the seventh, then a chip-in eagle-3 on the par-5 eighth hole from 40 yards. When the two made the turn to the back nine, Wright had drawn even with Cho.
The difference was that Cho recorded one bogey and one birdie on the back nine, while Wright rattled in two birdies, including another chip-in for birdie on the 14th from 20 feet. Cho was solid, but Wrights short game set her apart.
My short game has been great and I could really feel it today, said Wright, who won her first Futures Tour title last summer in Altamont, N.Y., during the partial season she played following her college graduation.
Cho had one last chance to apply pressure to the leader on the final green, but she came up short with her 35-foot birdie try. Wright was steady-handed and two-putted her 15-footer for par and the win. Cho secured second place with her 2-under finish of 70 at 205 (-11).
Lindsey says she was unbelievably nervous when she won last year, but thats also what she wants -- where she wants to be, said Leith Wastle, a teaching pro from Melbourne, Australia who is instructing Wright, Pratt and Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., who finished third at 8-under 208.
Lindsey is a tough little woman and shes got a heck of a lot of guts, added Wastle, who caddied for Pratt. Right now, shes just doing a lot of things right.
For starters, Wright hopes to gain her exempt LPGA Tour status for 2005 by finishing in the top five on the Futures Tour Money List at the end of this season. As a non-exempt LPGA Tour member, she has the option to Monday qualify. But Wright says her goals are more long-term than showing up for those grueling one-day events to earn one or two spots in the tournament field.
I see the Futures Tour as a big stepping stone, because there are so many players who can potentially win tournaments out here each week, said Wright, a former four-time All-American at Pepperdine. Im not interested in having one great week on the LPGA Tour and not being able to sustain it. I want to get better every week.
Wright, who played in eight tournaments in 2003, says she learned by watching the practice habits and tournament finishes of recent Futures Tour alums, such as Stacy Prammanasudh and Reilley Rankin. Both of those players earned their LPGA Tour cards by finishing in the Futures Tours top five.
I look at players from last year and see how well they are doing now on the LPGA Tour, said Wright. They worked really hard, but if they can do it, I can do it. Ive made that commitment to myself this year and Im learning something in every round I play.
As for going for the gold, Wrights finish at Isleta allowed her to charge up the Tours current Money List from No. 22 to No. 3. After three tournaments, she has won once and tied for fifth once. And its a safe bet as to whos buying dinner tonight when that carload of Aussies takes to the highway.