Here was a young woman who had done nothing as a professional golfer but struggle. In this, her second year on tour, Hilary had missed seven cuts while cashing checks only five times. Lunke had made a mere $39,000 on the 2003 LPGA Tour, barely enough to cover expenses.
My, how things have changed.
Just seconds after Angela Stanford made her improbable birdie putt to tie Lunke at even-par on the final green, it was Hilarys turn. Twelve feet from victory, from glory, from success.
On Sunday, the scenario had been virtually identical. Stanford holed her amazing birdie putt, leaving Lunke with one putt to win, two to tie, three to lose. Hilary wasnt about to blow it by the hole and lose, so she cozied it up a few inches short and tied.
On Monday, in the 18-hole playoff with Stanford and Kelly Robbins, Lunkes putt was perfect. Id left a few putts a few inches short, Hilary said, and I wasnt about to leave this one short.
Shortly after receiving the silver trophy, Hilary recounted that she couldnt even remember hitting the putt. Im kind of in a daze, she said.
Clichs are engendered from words of truth. As Hilary proved, no words ring truer than Putt for dough $560,000, to be precise.
Lunkes ball-striking didnt seem worthy of winning any event, much less the most prestigious championship in womens golf; but her putting during the 18-hole playoff to win the Open was good enough to beat anyone.
Hilary hit only eight greens in regulation. Her putting total for the day was a miniscule 23. Hilary needed a total of just five putts over the first six holes! During that dazzling stretch, Lunke went to 2-under par and built a four-stroke lead over Robbins and a three-stroke lead over Stanford.
Her goddess-like short game undoubtedly got Lunke to this stage in golf; and now it has changed her life. The $560,000 first prize rockets Hilary from 88th on the LPGA money list to fourth.
Prior to the Open, Lunke had yet to earn one single point to win a spot on the American Solheim Cup team. The major championship in a Solheim year is worth 60 points. Hilarys now ninth in the prestigious standings. The top 10 make the team for this falls match.
Just one month ago, Hilary was turning 24. Less than one month ago, she was fighting through both local and sectional quaiifying just to get into this championship.
Now, and for the rest of her life, Hilary Lunke will be introduced at every first tee as U.S. Womens Open champion. A little girls dream comes true.
It really hasnt sunk in yet, she said.