Aug. 28, 2011
VIDALIA, Ga., - Rookie Sydnee Michaels was calmly prophetic after she had moved into second place in the opening round of this week's LPGA Futures Tour tournament.
She entered the week ranked 13th on the tour's season money list and admitted she came here with a purpose and a plan.
"I know where I'm at on the money list and I know what I need to do," said Michaels, 23, of Temecula, Calif., on Friday. "I just have to bring it."
And by Sunday, that's exactly what she did.
Michaels won her first tournament as a professional Sunday by eight shots at 9-under 207 at the inaugural Vidalia Championship presented by Optim Medical Center -- Tattnall.
The former UCLA All-American carded three birdies and one bogey for a final-round score of 2-under 70 on the firm and speedy greens of Hawk's Point Golf Club.
Runner-up Ayaka Kaneko (71) of Honolulu, Hawaii was the only other player in the field to finish under par at one-under 215.
Tzu-Chi Lin (72) of Chinese Taipei and Jody Ewart (73) of North Yorkshire, England tied for third at even-par 216 for 54 holes.
"Sydnee was too good," said Lin, a Futures Tour tournament winner earlier this season. "I don't think it was easy to win here, but this was her course."
With the outer bands of Hurricane Irene moving up the east coast during Friday's opening round and producing steady winds around 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph, players struggled to hit enough club and yet hold the greens. More wind buffeted South Georgia on Saturday.
But Michaels appeared unfazed by the gusts or even the humid Deep South temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees. In three days, she put together rounds of 68-69-70, looking more like a savvy young pro peaking at the right time in the season than a rookie.
"She stuck to her game plan for three days, hitting the ball well, putting and chipping well, and staying unwavering in her self-belief," said professional caddie Lorcan Morris, who has caddied for some of the top names on the LPGA Tour. "What Sydnee has mentally, you can't teach. It was just a matter of her maturing as a professional, and I think she did that this week."
In the final round, Michaels hit 14 greens in regulation and made her longest putt for birdie all week in with a 25-footer on No. 16. Her birdie attempt from 15 feet on the final hole hung on the edge of the cup.
But it was good for a tap-in par for victory and a huge sigh of relief from the Californian who started the season playing alongside good friend and former UCLA teammate Tiffany Joh. Last night, with Joh tied for the lead at the LPGA's tournament in Canada and Michaels holding a five-shot lead heading into Sunday on the Futures Tour, the two posted messages on each other's Facebook page. The gist had something to do with "Bruin Power."
"At UCLA, we fed off each other's energy and I felt like that again," said Michaels, who played on the team with Joh for three years. "I said, `Let's do this!'"
And with her win, Michaels bumped Joh out of the top five on the LPGA Futures Tour money list and moved to the top of the Futures Tour's rookie race. (Joh, who won earlier this season on the Futures Tour as a dual member of both tours, tied for 12th at the CN Canadian Women's Open and moved to No. 57 on the LPGA's Official Money List.)
"I'm stoked!" said Michaels of this week's win. "It feels incredible and the timing of it makes it even better. I'm going into the final event in Albany [N.Y.] really confident and ready to win again."
For complete scores and information, click here.
Lisa Mickey of the LPGA Futures Tour wrote this story.