Kayla Lawrence grew up hitting golf balls into the water at a driving range in Redding, Calif.
None of her shots approached a hazard in the final round of the Connecticut Women’s Open at Torrington Country Club Tuesday.
Lawrence had birdies on two of the final three holes and finished with a 1-under-par 71 to win the title with a 142 total.
“Yeah that’s how I learned to play; long way from driving into the water when I was a kid,” she said.
Lawrence, 26, of Deland, Fla., needed all of her shot-making skills at the demanding 5,803-yard course and against the field.
Alexa Re Rancourt, of Simpsonville, S.C., birdied 18 to close with a 69. Her 143 looked promising for a playoff or maybe a victory, but turned into a second-place finish.
“After I parred 17, I knew I needed to birdie 18,” she said. “I thought that might do it. But give credit to Kayla, she was great when she needed to be.”
Lawrence earned the $4,000 prize as the low professional. The low amateur was Mia Landegren of Bridewater (77-70 — 147).
Gabrielle Shipley, of Hastings, Mich., who shot a 66, tied the women’s competitive round record at Torrington CC. She tied for fourth at 145 with first-round leader Melissa Sivitier (75) of Alpharetta, Ga.; Josse Doyon (69) of Newton Falls, Ohio; and Elizabeth Breed (71) of Waynesboro, Pa.
Ayaka Nakayama, of Oviedo, Fla., was third (144).
The lead shifted many times in the last round, in which play was suspended for 40 minutes in the morning because of dangerous weather (thunderstorm cell). The players contended with a mixed bag of fog, mist, rain, sunshine and wind.
“The course was in great shape; I was very impressed with it,” said Lawrence, who played at Tulsa and was a graduate assistant coach at Texas-El Paso before she turned pro a year ago.
Lawrence was not given the Conecticut Women’s Open title. She seized it.
After a self-described “so-so” front, in which she was 1-over 37, she blasted her driver 288 yards, which left her with a 40-yard pitch at the par-4 10th hole. She got up and down for birdie.
She bogeyed 13, but bounced back to hit the green at the par-5 16th with her second shot, a 184-yard 4-iron. She just missed a 35-foot eagle putt and tapped in for birdie. This tied her for the lead at 1-under with Rancourt, who had finished.
At the par-3 17th, Lawrence choked down on a 6-iron and dropped it 2 feet right of the pin. “I hit it perfectly; it was so cool,” she said. “A great shot and an easy birdie.”
Lawrence boomed another drive at 18 that left her with an 89-yard shot from the left rough. It stopped 5 feet below the hole. She admitted she wanted the ball to go more to the middle of the green instead of flirting with a deep bunker, guarding the pin on the right side.
Though she missed the birdie, she made par and was the champion.
“It would have been nice to end it with a birdie, but I feel great with my first win as a pro,” Lawrence said
Tashua Knolls Honored
Tashua Knolls GC in Trumbull received the Walter Lowell Public Golf Course Distinguished Service Award by the Connecticut Section PGA at the tournament in his name at The Farms CC in Wallingford Tuesday. James Giampaolo of Hawk’s Landing CC-Southington won the $1,000 first prize with 40 points in the modified Stableford scoring event. In addition, Tashua Knolls CC’s head professional David Bove was named the Connecticut Section PGA Teacher of the Year. Tashua Knolls will be the first public course to be the site of the CSGA Men’s Amateur June 19-23. … The CWGA awarded the Priscilla Maxwell Endicott Scholarship to Roxanne Garceau of Woodstock Academy, who’s going to Central Connecticut; the Judy Gamble Scholarship went to Gabrielle Martin of Hand-Madison (Williams), and the Pat Creed Scholarship to Alexa Brown of Trumbull (CCSU). … Tommy McDonagh of Norwalk, the 2006 and ’11 amateur champion, and Brendan Borst of Philadelphia lost on the 19th hole to Clark Collierwas of Dallas and Kyle Hudelson of Oklahoma City in a second-round match of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Course No. 2 at Pinehurst (N.C.).