But by days end, the main character was Canadian Kim Adams of Tide Head, New Brunswick ' a second-year member of the FUTURES Tour still looking for her first Tour win. Like many members of the Tour, Adams spent most of last year and the off-season trying to understand the premature death of her childhood friend and fellow FUTURES Tour player from New Brunswick, Heather Wilbur, who lost her battle with leukemia last October at age 27. Wilburs death stirred something in Adams.
And it stirred something in her play today at Cleveland Heights Golf Club, where the Tour was playing its first tournament of the season and 400th in its 24-year history. Adams steadily moved up the leader board after a one-under-par 71 on Friday, which tied her for fifth place. A 67 in Saturdays second round gave her a share of second place at 138. But with Wilburs mother in town and walking in Adams gallery for the final round, Adams tapped into something that set her apart from the rest of the field.
Call it coincidental. Call it divine intervention. Or call it rock-solid determination and focus on behalf of Adams to lock herself in the moment -- however emotional it was -- and not even realize the extent of her lead as she walked to the 18th green, maple-leaf flags waving in the gallery. Of course, now, call Adams a champion. Her final-round 67, the round's low score on a day when wind made guesswork of club selection, rewarded Adams in a way she never imagined.
This win was definitely for my friend Wilbur and the whole province of New Brunswick, said Adams, who earned a winners check of $9,100 for her 11-under-par total of 205. There were a few times today when I thought, Wilbur, help me out buddy. That went through my head a lot over putts.
Adams may have shed some tears when she finished, but she was tough as the Border Patrol when she used 27 putts and played a bogey-free round that included a birdie at the fifth hole from two inches, a chip-in eagle-3 on No. 8 from 50 yards, a birdie on the 15th from two inches, and a 10-foot birdie on the 17th that made her walk up the 18th fairway perfunctory. Wilbur may have been watching, but Adams was hitting the shots and draining her putts when they mattered most.
Talented teen Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea appeared to be the player with momentum halfway through the final round and briefly grabbed the tournament lead, but Adams regained the lead on the ninth green when Lee bogeyed. The Canadian was never challenged by second-round leaders Nicole Perrot of Vina del Mar, Chile, Carri Wood of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Cortney Reno of Gross Ile, Mich., who all backed up in the final round on the 6,230-yard municipal course with speedy greens.
Lee posted a final-round, two-under-par 70 to finish second at 209, while Perrot carded a plus-one 73 for third at 210. Renos final-round 76 tumbled her into eighth, while Woods 75 tied her for fifth, thanks to a double-bogey on the 13th hole. Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea made a final-round charge, finishing solo fourth at 211.
But today was Adams day. Her goal for the week was three-pronged, which according to Adams, included her mission to: stay target-oriented; remain 100 percent committed to her decisions over shots; and to have fun and enjoy the moment. By all accounts, she was right on target.
Adams was trailed and saluted by the visiting snowbirds and toasted by the Tour for making Doris Wilburs trip south memorable. The Tour established the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award last fall for the FUTURES Tour player who best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance, love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer. Wilbur was told she was the awards first recipient prior to her death on October 21, 2003. Her mother, Doris, was in Lakeland this weekend to receive the carved-art sculpture during the final-round awards ceremony. It was a bittersweet affair with a large gathering of red-eyed Tour members still missing their friend and believing that Wilbur the player, was there with them, after all.
You could just tell last year, when Heather was sick, the atmosphere was different out here, said Adams, 24. Heather was a really good friend of mine. We grew up playing junior golf together. To come out and win the first event of the season with her mother here watching is just unbelievable.
Too true for Hollywood, maybe. But entirely fitting for the seasons first champion amid the maple leaves of Lakeland.