Alena Sharp played virtually flawless golf over the 1st 36 holes of the Symetra Tour's season-opener in Mesa, Arizona (13 birdies, 1 double bogey), as she opened up a 3-shot lead on Jennie Lee, but she made things interesting when she stumbled out of the gate in her final round with 3 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes. Even as Emily Talley fired a bogey-free 65 to finish early at -9 (she was later joined by Sadena Parks and Becca Huffer, who both shot 68s), and Sharp's playing partners Lee and Marissa Steen fought back from early problems themselves, the LPGA veteran hung tough and sandwiched a lone bogey between pairs of birdies (on 8 and 9 and then on 12 and 13) to get back to -12. By the time the final threesome got to the 16th tee, though, Lee had pulled within 2 shots and Steen within 3 of Sharp's lead. After Lee bogeyed 16 and Sharp bogeyed 17, Sharp led both of her challengers by 2 shots. And a walkoff birdie sealed the deal, giving the Canadian her 1st career Symetra Tour victory after 2 runner-up finishes last season (the 1st at this very event).
While I'm excited to discover that Parks is a fan of animated film and an American Ethnic Studies graduate from the University of Washington, I'm disappointed that Mitsuki Katahira closed with a 75 to fall outside the top 60, Yueer Cindy Feng could never get it going all week and needed to birdie her last 2 holes to finish at E (T35), and Hannah Yun ended up with a 74 that dropped her to T21 (although she did show a lot of fight by bouncing back from a pair of early doubles today). At least Cheyenne Woods played solid golf after a rough 1st 15 holes to the tournament, finishing T14 (tied with, among others, Fiona Puyo, who fired a 6-birdie 67 today), 3 shots behind Lee Lopez and 2 behind Lindy Duncan, who both closed with fine 68s. It was also great to see Sara Brown's name near the top of the leaderboard again; she finished at -7 on the strength of a 5-birdie 69.
The tour next travels to City of Industry, California, where Birdie Kim, Jennifer Song, and Kim Welch join the show, but it's looking like Sharp will sit this one out. Let's see who can join her in the 2014 winner's circle!