DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Midway through the afternoon Sunday at LPGA International, it looked as if Sara Brown was going to be part of a constantly growing list of players whose 2011 LPGA tour cards would come down to a playoff. With spitting rain and gusting wind increasing and temperatures dropping, Brown lamented an 11th-hour birdie lip-out at the 18th. For a while, anyway, it looked like that putt was going to be the difference between safety and uncertainty.
Scores rose across the board during the final round of LPGA Q-School, and eventually Brown landed safely inside the top 20 players (finishing T-14 at 2-over 362), all of whom secured full status on the LPGA for next season. It was a grueling week in less-than-ideal Florida weather, and Brown summed it all up standing on the 17th tee Sunday.
“I told my boyfriend, my caddie (Derek Radley), on the 17th hole, I was like, ‘I’m either gonna puke or I’m gonna cry,’ ” Brown said afterward.
After hearing that line, Radley had a decision to make at the 18th. As Brown faced the final birdie putt, she asked if she needed to make it. Radley promptly said no.
“Well, he totally lied,” Brown said.
To which he countered post-round, “Hey, she didn’t need to make it, right?”
Brown, who appeared on the Big Break: Sandals Resorts, spent the past year playing on the Futures Tour. Now that she has secured an LPGA card, she’ll fly to Murcia, Spain, on Monday for the final stage of qualifying for the Ladies European Tour.
• • •
Final-round fall: Libby Smith couldn’t immediately answer questions about her final-round 82 Sunday. Showing extreme composure, Smith used several seconds to pull her thoughts together, the pain of dropping 19 spots down the leaderboard and out of the top 20 clearly showing on her face.
Smith was solo third after four rounds, but ended the day with only partial status for 2011 as she finished T-22. Playing in the final pairing with winner Aree Song and Jessica Korda, Smith struggled as sunny skies gave way to rain and extreme wind mid-morning. She went 9 over in a seven-hole stretch starting at No. 7. That included double bogeys at Nos. 8 and 10.
“I kind of lost my swing on seven, kind of when we rounded the corner in the wind, and struggled for a few holes and just went on a bogey streak,” Smith explained. “Hung in there, and bounced back and parred in from 15 on.”
Smith closed the week by dropping a 25-foot par putt on the final hole after driving into a water hazard. She walked off the course smiling, and will have partial status next year.
“It will work out all right,” she said.
• • •
Tears of joy: Belen Mozo was one of several players to burst into tears after completing her final round. Mozo, however, was safely inside the cutline, as were many of her peers who felt the stress of five Q-School rounds come to the surface immediately after dropping the last putt. She finished T-8 at 1-under 359.
“I knew that I was going to be in, being even par on the front nine with the toughest weather and playing as well as I was playing,” she said. “I just didn’t know until my boyfriend called and I just didn’t cry until he called.”
Mozo now is one half of a new power couple sure to take the sports world by storm. Boyfriend Robert Farah – who played at USC, like Mozo – is a professional tennis player who already has played the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. Now that both have reached the highest level of their sport, Mozo envisions spending a lot more time together.
“The more you play, the more money you get. The more money you get, the more flights you can buy,” Mozo reasoned.
• • •
Horses for courses: Pernilla Lindberg’s line on the scoreboard is one of stark contrast. Lindberg, who earned her card at LPGA Q-School last year, recorded rounds of 4-under 68 on the Champions course at LPGA International to start the week. Her scores on the Legends course, however, were considerably higher. Think 77-76.
“I’ve always said that I think the Legends is tougher, but at the same time my game has not been that much different,” she said. “I think it was just I couldn’t really adjust between the two different greens because they’re a little bit quicker over there, and some more grain so that was mostly where I struggled.”
Needless to say, Lindberg was thankful that Sunday’s final round would be staged on Champions. She delivered an even-par 72 to land in a tie for 12th and safely earn a tour card once again. With status on the Ladies European Tour for next year, too, Lindberg is done with competitive golf for 2010.
“Now it’s officially the offseason,” she said. “I’m just going to go back home to Sweden, enjoy skiing and snow.”
• • •
Birthday gift: The round of the day Sunday belonged to Danah Ford Bordner, who buckled down to shoot 4-under 68 in what she called “typical Midwest weather.” It’s not the first time Ford Bordner has outshined the field on a gloomy day. The Indianapolis native also won the 2004 Big Ten Championship in similar conditions.
“I was kind of in my element, and my good friend Craig Castrale was on the bag,” Ford Bordner said. “Just all week we kept saying fairways and greens, fairways and greens. I was bogey free, and it was a good day.”
A good day made better by the fact that Sunday was Ford Bordner’s 30th birthday. There’s no better gift than a tour card.