2005: This time, Hurst manages to close the deal

Springfield, Ill.

It had been five years since Pat Hurst had closed out an LPGA victory, and it wasn’t for a lack of chances. Sept. 4 at the State Farm Classic, she finally delivered – just in time for a Solheim Cup boost.

Hurst’s most infamous final-round flop came at the 2001 Office Depot, where she led Annika Sorenstam by 10 shots before a final-round 77 left her one shot out of a playoff between Sorenstam and Mi Hyun Kim, with Sorenstam eventually winning. Then there was the final-hole bogey that left her a shot behind Sorenstam at the 2003 Aerus Electrolux USA Championship, and the four-putt double bogey on No. 18 that wiped out Hurst’s one-shot lead and handed Helen Alfredsson a victory at the 2003 Longs Drug Challenge.

The streak even extended to the week prior to the State Farm, when Hurst headed to the 18th tee at the Wendy’s Championship for Children tied with Cristie Kerr before hitting her drive into a ditch far right of the fairway and making a double bogey that dropped her to a tie for fourth.

This time it didn’t come down to the final hole for Hurst, who basically had wrapped up her fourth career victory with birdies on her first five holes Sunday. Although her back nine was a little shaky, Hurst won by three shots over Kerr, who never got closer than two during the final round.

“You try to look at the present not the past. . . . I think last week was just a stepping stone, and I think it helped a little bit,” Hurst said.

Hurst, 36, was up five after 11 holes, but made double bogey and bogey on Nos. 12 and 13, respectively. She birdied the par-4 14th, then managed to save par on the par-5 15th after hitting her second shot into a greenside pond. She parred the final three holes to finish with a 2-under 70 and 17-under 271 total.

“I’m glad that last putt is in and that back nine is over,” said Hurst, who led members of the U.S. Solheim Cup team in a 1-2-3 finish.

Kerr (69), who trailed Hurst by four at the start of the day, also started fast with birdies on three of her first four holes, but couldn’t apply any more pressure thanks to mediocre putting.

She parred 11 consecutive holes before making birdie on the par-3 16th to get within two shots. But she bogeyed No. 18 to finish three back.

“I hit it the best I’ve hit it in over a week,” Kerr said. “My putting left me totally. I was shocked.”

U.S. Solheim Cup team member Natalie Gulbis (68) tied for third with Heather Bowie (68) at 13 under.

With her victory burden finally lifted, Hurst seems primed for this week’s Solheim Cup at Crooked Stick, where the American squad will try to avenge a 17 1⁄2-101⁄2 loss to Europe in 2003.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence going into next week, and nothing is better than representing my country,” said Hurst, who after the tournament joined Kerr, Gulbis and several other U.S. team members on a bus headed to Carmel, Ind., for the Sept. 9-11 matches.

“Everybody seems to be coming around with their game right at the same time,” U.S. Solheim Cup captain Nancy Lopez said.

Said Kerr: “The whole team is playing well. We’re psyched to play.”

– Staff and wire reports

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