Release provided by Duramed FUTURES Tour
EL PASO, TEXAS — It wasn't quite the typical Gatorade shower athletes and coaches receive, but it was close enough for Kristina Tucker of Stockholm, Sweden, as she captured her first professional title in the United States on Sunday at the El Paso Golf Classic.
Tucker finished the Duramed FUTURES Tour's fifth event of the year at 11-under-par with a three-round total of 205 to earn the $11,900 winner's prize.
She beat out Leah Wigger (73) of Louisville, Ky., Sophia Sheridan (68) of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Stella Lee (68) of Seoul, South Korea, all at 8-under-par 208, by three shots for top honors.
Tucker was doused with water bottles by fellow players Briana Vega of Andover, Mass., and Danah Ford of Indianapolis, Ind., after she tapped in her final putt for birdie on the 18th green. The nimble-footed Swede danced out of the way and avoided getting soaked, embracing her counterparts instead and celebrating her long overdue and first professional win stateside. Her only previous professional win came on the Swedish Telia Tour.
With today's win, Tucker became the third Swede to win a Duramed FUTURES Tour title, following up Sofie Andersson's win in 2007 at the Aurora Health Care Championship in Lake Geneva, Wis.
"It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to represent my country", Tucker said after posing for pictures by the Swedish flag. "It's my fifth year out here and I finally got it together. My heart was pounding coming up the last green."
It was a long time coming for the Duramed FUTURES Tour veteran whose previous career-best finish was a second-place showing at the 2007 Hunters Oak Golf Classic in Queenstown, Md. Even though Tucker said she felt the pressure on her last hole, that pressure was alleviated when she planted a 190-yard, 5-iron approach shot to within two feet of the cup.
"I've never hit a 5-iron that long before," Tucker marveled. "I usually only hit it about 165 yards. It was the shot of my life."
The former standout at Duke University was overjoyed with her win and was on the phone with her husband, Paul Tucker, a former professional player on the NGA Hooters Tour, just moments after the awards ceremony.
"I went to bed really nervous last night," said Tucker, who was a contestant on The Golf Channel's "Big Break>Hawaii" in 2006."I talked to my husband (Paul) and he just said to 'calm down and go get them'".
Strangely enough, the El Paso Golf Classic tournament director, Bob Peterson, was also Tucker's playing partner during the week's pro-am event, sponsored by Bank of the West.
"He was able to tell me where to hit the ball in the fairways," Tucker said with a grin.
Known as a putting extraordinaire, Tucker had unusual struggles throughout the day on the greens. She carved out three birdies on the back nine, overcoming a pair of bogeys on the front nine.
"I really wasn't happy with the way I putted after nine holes," Tucker said. "I learned that I don't have to hit perfect shots all of the time. It's aboutminimizing mistakes, and today I was able to do that."
Tucker and Wigger were knotted at 8-under par before a birdie and bogey on the 11th hole created some cushion for Tucker. They both admitted that putting wasn't their strength on Sunday. Already a 2008 tournament winner from the event in Daytona Beach, Fla., Wigger was hanging with Tucker step for step through the front nine before her own putting troubles proved costly.
"I had plenty of opportunities to make birdies today," said Wigger, now in her second professional season out of the University of Virginia. "I hit the ball well, but I knew it'd be tough. It got to the point where I couldn't trust my lines."
Wigger still earned $6,290 and is closing in on current money leader Vicky Hurst of Melbourne, Fla., in a hurry. Hurst, who skipped the El Paso tournament to play as a sponsor's exemption on the LPGA Tour last week, has made $22,277 through four events --a slim $158 difference to Wigger's earnings through the same number of tries.
For Sheridan, a member of the LPGA Tour in 2007, she felt like the pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together. The Mexican player posted a career-best finish on Sunday and gave Tucker a run for her money with her best round of the tournament at 4-under-par 68.
"I haven't been chasing the lead this close in quite a while," said Sheridan, a third-year pro who played collegiately at the University of California-Berkeley. "I had a lot of fun today. I can't remember the last time I had a bogey-free round, but I like it."
Sheridan had an extra spring in her step as she leaped over the scoring tent rope and was greeted by a gallery of Mexican fans that had been following her throughout the round.
Lee, a fourth-year Duramed FUTURES Tour pro, also registered a career-best finish with her tie for second and tied Sheridan's final-round scoreof 4-under-par 68. She made the Texas swing a memorable one, placing in a tie for 23rd a week ago in McAllen, Texas.
"I really like McAllen because I've done so well there," said Lee, referencing her previous career-best finish there in 2006. "I missed the cuts the last two years in El Paso, so I told myself this year, 'I'm going to make the cut.'"
The Duramed FUTURES Tour is idle next week before resuming play May 16-18, in Leawood, Kan., for the Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City Championship.
For real-time scoring and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Sunny with a high of 81 degrees and winds blowing SE at 5-10 mph.
Valentine Cards Third Career Ace on 15
Lynn Valentine of East Lyme, Conn., scored the Duramed FUTURES Tour's second ace of the El Paso Golf Classic on the 137-yard, 15th hole. Valentine hit an 8-iron and earned a $500 check through the Duramed Hole-in-One Challenge for her single shot. It was the Tour's fifth hole-in-one of the season.
The 10th-year professional said her playing partner, Vikki Laing of Musselburgh, Scotland, yelled "Go in!" and the ball disappeared. It was Valentine's third ace of her career.
"It took two hops right on a line," Valentine said. "I turned around to pick up my tee and then I screamed and jumped up and down."
Valentine was coming off a bogey on No. 14 and even though she thought she left a lot of putts out on the course, she still managed to finish 1-under-par (71) on the day. Unfortunately, she had other things to tend to when she gets back home.
"This is a good way to top off the weekend," Valentine said. "I have a flat tire waiting at home, so this will help."
Yoora Kim Nets iPod Touch With 66
Yoora Kim of Seoul, South Korea, burned the Underwood Golf Complex with a 6-under-par 66 to become the latest winner in Duramed's Sunday Low Round Award promotion. Kim will receive an 8 GB Apple iPod Touch for her effort that moved her up into a tie for a career-best sixth-place finish with a three-round score of 210 (-6).
It was just one of those days for Kim where everything went right. She nearly drained a hole-in-one on the par-3 third hole and she tied a career-low round.
"After the first round, I felt like I was all over the place with my driver," Kim said. "I felt my confidence growing throughout the day because I learned so much from the first two rounds."
- d - u - k - e -
Final round scores and money Sunday in the Duramed FUTURES Tour's $85,000
El Paso Golf Classic at the 6447-yard, par 36-36 - 72
Underwood Golf Complex, El Paso, Texas (a-denotes amateur):
1 Kristina Tucker (Stockholm, Sweden) 66-68-71 - 205 $11,900
T2 Sophia Sheridan (Guadalajara, Mexico) 70-70-68 - 208 $6,290
Stella Lee (Seoul, South Korea) 71-69-68 - 208 $6,290
Leah Wigger (Louisville, Ky.) 66-69-73 - 208 $6,290
5 Song Yi Choi (Seoul, South Korea) 71-71-67 - 209 $3,466
T6 Yoora Kim (Seoul, South Korea) 74-70-66 - 210 $2,467
Haeji Kang (Seoul, South Korea) 69-70-71 - 210 $2,467
T8 Jin Young Pak (Kang Leung, South Korea) 72-70-69 - 211 $1,787
Whitney Wade (Glasgow, Ky.) 73-67-71 - 211 $1,787
T10 Yeon Joo Lee (Seoul, South Korea) 74-69-69 - 212 $1,299
Brandi Jackson (Greenville, S.C.) 72-70-70 - 212 $1,299
Cortney Reno (Grosse Ile, Mich.) 68-73-71 - 212 $1,299
Amanda McCurdy (Little Rock, Ark.) 69-70-73 - 212 $1,299
T14 Lili Alvarez (Durango, Mexico) 71-74-68 - 213 $987
Kim Welch (Sacramento, Calif.) 73-72-68 - 213 $987
Kelly Lagedrost (Brooksville, Fla.) 74-68-71 - 213 $987
T17 Mo Martin (Altadena, Calif.) 71-71-72 - 214 $812
Danah Ford (Indianapolis, Ind.) 72-70-72 - 214 $812
Nari Kim (Seoul, South Korea) 73-69-72 - 214 $812
T20 Christine Cho (Kent, Wash.) 76-71-68 - 215 $694
Aimee Cho (Orlando, Fla.) 77-70-68 - 215 $694
Gerina Mendoza (Roswell, N.M.) 75-71-69 - 215 $694
Lisa Ferrero (Lodi, Calif.) 75-70-70 - 215 $694
Rak Kyung Oh (Anaheim, Calif.) 71-74-70 - 215 $694
Kim Augusta (Rumford, R.I.) 73-72-70 - 215 $694
Amanda Mathis (Opelousas, La.) 75-69-71 - 215 $694
Jessica Shepley (Oakville, Ontario) 77-67-71 - 215 $694
Kailin Downs (Bend, Ore.) 71-72-72 - 215 $694
T29 Chella Choi (Seoul, South Korea) 71-75-70 - 216 $632
Michelle Jarman (Wilmington, N.C.) 74-72-70 - 216 $632
Sae Hee Son (Seoul, South Korea) 72-74-70 - 216 $632
Katie Allison (Little River, S.C.) 72-74-70 - 216 $632
Vikki Laing (Musselburgh, Scotland) 74-72-70 - 216 $632
Gina Umeck (Redlands, Calif.) 74-68-74 - 216 $632
M. J. Hur (Seoul, South Korea) 72-67-77 - 216 $632
T36 Briana Vega (Andover, Mass.) 75-74-68 - 217 $595
Samantha Richdale (Kelowna, British Columbia)75-72-70 - 217 $595
Lynn Valentine (East Lyme, Conn.) 72-74-71 - 217 $595
Y. J. Jin (Seoul, South Korea) 75-69-73 - 217 $595
Jill Frantz (Iowa City, Iowa) 71-73-73 - 217 $595
Caroline Larsson (Stockholm, Sweden) 73-68-76 - 217 $595
T42 Rebecka Heinmert (San Jose, Calif.) 74-73-71 - 218 $567
Ashley Prange (Noblesville, Ind.) 76-70-72 - 218 $567
Jenna Pearson (Wheaton, Ill.) 72-74-72 - 218 $567
Mindy Kim (Diamond Bar, Calif.) 72-73-73 - 218 $567
Esther Choe (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 73-72-73 - 218 $567
Bridget Dwyer (Kailua, Hawaii) 68-75-75 - 218 $567
Cindy Lee-Pridgen (Sabah, Malaysia) 71-71-76 - 218 $567
T49 Marcela Leon (Monterrey, Mexico) 75-73-71 - 219 $542
Kitty Hwang (Guayaquil, Ecuador) 77-71-71 - 219 $542
Dana Je (Orlando, Fla.) 75-72-72 - 219 $542
Sunny Oh (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) 71-75-73 - 219 $542
Amy Schmucker (Cold Spring, Minn.) 76-69-74 - 219 $542
Lori Atsedes (Ithaca, N.Y.) 73-71-75 - 219 $542
T55 Alejandra Shaw (Vina Del Mar, Chile) 78-71-71 - 220 $521
Libby Smith (Essex Junction, Vt.) 75-73-72 - 220 $521
Jean Reynolds (Newnan, Ga.) 73-75-72 - 220 $521
Alissa Kuczka (Phoenix, Ariz.) 77-71-72 - 220 $521
Anastasia Kostina (Nakhabino, Russia) 76-71-73 - 220 $521
Stacey Tate (Auckland, New Zealand) 74-73-73 - 220 $521
Jennifer Ackerson (Dallas, Texas) 72-74-74 - 220 $521
Meghan Little (Sturgis, S.D.) 70-74-76 - 220 $521
T63 Rachel Bailey (Faulconbridge, Australia) 75-74-72 - 221 $506
Maru Martinez (Maracaibo, Venezuela) 76-73-72 - 221 $506
Alice Kim (Los Angeles, Calif.) 75-73-73 - 221 $506
Courtney Erdman (Altadena, Calif.) 74-73-74 - 221 $506
T67 Chris Brady (Longboat Key, Fla.) 76-71-75 - 222 $502
LeAnna Wicks (Brighton, Mich.) 76-69-77 - 222 $502
T69 Seema Sadekar (Toronto, Ontario) 71-78-74 - 223 $500
Carol Green (Tazewell, Va.) 76-72-75 - 223 $500
T71 Lisa Meldrum (Montreal, Quebec) 74-75-75 - 224 $500
Lauren Todd (Phoenix, Ariz.) 78-71-75 - 224 $500
73 Tanya Dergal (Durango, Mexico) 73-75-77 - 225 $500
74 Maggie Simons (Raleigh, N.C.) 74-75-79 - 228 $500
--- Missed Cut ---
Jessica Schneider, Kelly Schaub, Moah Chang, Amanda Costner, Jeehae Lee, Taya Battistella, Christi Cano, Nicole Jeray, Janell Howland, Susan Nam, Sofie Andersson, Maria Laura Elvira, Noon Huachai, Sookhee Baek, Bing Lim, Ashley Knoll, Elena Kurokawa, Sarah Olsen, Laura Korus, Hanna Kang, Amber Prange, Eom Ji Park, Sasha Medina, Cristina Baena, Perry Swenson, Shayna Miyajima, Maria Kostina, Adriane Duke, Jin Hyun Kim, Lorraine Ballerano, Sarah Oh, Caroline Park (a), Tiffany Tavee, Kellee Booth, Nikki Hadd, Christina Lecuyer, Susan Choi, Ashley Elias (a), Misun Cho, Devan Andersen, Kelly Froelich, Tiffany Prats, Jaclyn Burch, Mandi McConnell, Polly Willett, Stephanie Otteson, Leah Whiting, Christine Boucher, Kate Stepanek, Catherine Matranga, Ulrika Ljungman-Smith, Eileen Vargas, Tarah McNaughton, Esther Moon, Natalie Tucker, Keiko Inoue, Jennifer Kovach, Jessica Carafiello, Alana Johnson, Courtney Mahon, Jackie Beers-Szymoniak, Grace Woo, Sam White, Stephanie Ruiz, Lehua Wise, Benedikte Grotvedt (a), Megan Godfrey, Jenny Hansen, Stephanie Godare; WDI - Sohi Moon; DNS - Becky Chen