Emily Tubert is no stranger to success on the golf course – and that continued Wednesday, Nov. 12 at the Arizona Women’s Open at Sun City Country Club.
The University of Arkansas grad and winner this year at the first stage of qualifying for the LPGA Tour – Tubert kept her hot streak going with two stellar rounds at Sun City CC.
Tubert – who is also on the current season of Big Break on the Golf Channel – held off her two closest competitors for a three-shot win over the three days of competition, shooting a seven-under-par, 209.
Opening rounds of 69, 67 had her in a great position heading into the final round, holding a four-shot lead going into the final day. She scrambled her way to a one-over-par 73 on Wednesday, which was good enough to hold on for the win.
“I didn’t hit the ball very well today, especially compared to the first two rounds,” she said. “But I got it up and down from everywhere.”
“I was really nervous the last nine holes – why, I don’t know. The ball was going everywhere, but thankfully my short game came through.”
LPGA Tour veteran Alena Sharp and 18-year-old Ashlan Ramsey, who turned professional after just one year on the Clemson University golf team, both shot 4-under-par 212 to tie for second.
Sharp’s birdie on the 16th hole – coupled with Tubert’s bogey – cut the lead to just two, but pars on 17 and 18 for Tubert secured the win.
“Just like that my lead was cut in half, so I was definitely feeling the pressure,” Tubert said. “It was a strong field with LPGA players and players in the third stage of qualifying, people full of experience, so to get the win was great.”
Ramsey had the best round of the day in the final group with a one-under-par, 71 – to Sharp’s 72 – but it wasn’t quite enough.
“I knew I needed to make a lot of birdies today to catch her,” Ramsey said. “I had three or four which helped my score, kept it in play and made a few putts, but Emily had a great three days.”
“It could’ve been anyone’s day, but I just didn’t take advantage of it.”
For the newly turned pro, the second-place finish had a big benefit – a check.
“It means a paycheck ($2,300,) which is nice,” she said. “I’ve struggled a little bit recently, so it helps my confidence, which puts my mind at ease going into the next tournaments.”
For Sharp, the tournament was about preparing for next year’s LPGA season.
“I haven’t been doing anything, so I wanted to come and play and stay competitive,” she said. “I took my time off and now I’m getting back into it to get ready for my first event in January.”
She finished 94th on the money list for the year on the LPGA Tour, and closed it out with a top-30 finish in her final event.
“I had been struggling going into that one, but I got it done and played well on Sunday, so I was happy walking away.”
Playing alongside an 18-year-old and a 20-something, she was definitely the older sister of the group.
“I don’t feel that old, but playing with them I guess I’m the veteran,” she laughed. Her second-place finish is her second in a row at the tournament, which she lamented after the round.
“I did not hit it well today,” she said. “I was going to try and put pressure on Emily, but I didn’t do enough, especially over the last six holes.”
Jane Rah and Cheyenne Woods tied for fourth, two shots back at two-under-par, 214. Hannah O’Sullivan was the low amateur, finishing seventh overall with a one-over-par, 217. For complete results, go to http://thecactustour.com/2014awo/Stroke.html.
Playing in this year’s tournament was special for Mallory Blackwelder, who had her brother Myles on the bag.
The University of Kentucky product got some expert caddying from Myles, who regularly caddies on the LPGA Tour. He had carried for her once while she was a Wildcat, but this was their first partnership since she turned professional.
“This was our first time working together,” Mallory said. “It was great to have him out there with me.”
They both come from an LPGA golfing family; their mother played professionally on the tour and their dad still caddies on the tour. Mallory’s husband also caddies, carrying for Graham DeLaet on the PGA Tour.
The siblings evidently worked well together, with Mallory finishing in a tie for eighth overall at two-over-par, 218.
Tubert beat 96 other players to win the title – including 84 professionals and 12 amateurs – and took home a $5,500 first-place check. It was the largest field since Mike Brown, the president and CEO of the Cactus Tour, resurrected the event in 2010.
“The tournament had been dead since 2002, we hadn’t had one in eight years,” he said. “After those eight years off, we had 62 players in the tournament in 2010.”
This year’s turnout was the largest since Brown took it over four years ago and was the largest pro field in a state women’s open in the country in 2014.
“We went from 62 that first year, to 97 this year,” Brown said. The purse has also increased, with this year’s tournament doling out more than $31.000 in prize money to the top third of the field.
The purse came from the entry fees and a sponsorship from AFLAC, which contributed funds for the prize money this year.
“They stepped up this year and put some money into the pot, and we had some overflow from our previous events over the year,” Brown said. “We sweetened the pot up as much as we could.”
“My goal is to have the biggest field and the largest purse for a state women’s open in the country. There’s no reason Arizona can’t do that, we just have to get the business community to step up to the plate.”
Sun City Country Club rose to the occasion for the tourney, after it had to be moved there in the final days leading up to the event.
“For them to step in at the last minute was huge,” Brown said.
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By Kevin Duke
Associate Editor – Golf Arizona