2005: At long last, Bowie breaks through

Sylvania, Ohio

It seems nothing in professional golf has come easy for Heather Bowie. Neither did her first LPGA victory – until the very end.

Finally, after two failed trips to Q-School and 51/2 seasons that never seemed to live up to the promise of a sterling amateur career, victory did come for the 30-year-old veteran.

Bowie made par on the third playoff hole to defeat Gloria Park July 10 at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, exorcising demons and overcoming her worst fears that her final-round 67 wouldn’t be enough.

“The longer it goes, the harder it is,” Bowie said. “And honestly, I kept telling myself all day, ‘You’re not going to win. You can’t win this thing. You’re too far back.’ ”

Fighting back tears, the winner hugged and kissed her caddie and boyfriend, Jeremy Young, after hitting a short putt to clinch victory in her 138th LPGA start. She finished at 10-under 274 to earn $180,000.

When Bowie left the University of Texas in 1997 after winning the NCAA individual title, it seemed as if an LPGA victory was only a matter of time. But her pro career got off to a stumbling start. She failed twice to get her card at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament and struggled through two seasons on the Futures Tour before finally earning nonexempt status with a tie for 27th at Q-School in December 1999.

Once she got to the tour, she was steady, never finishing below 54th in earnings and even earning a U.S. Solheim Cup berth in 2003. But victories – and even top 10s – remained elusive. In her first five seasons, Bowie managed 13 top 10s in 120 events. This year, however, she posted five top 10s in her first eight events and, entering the Farr, was No. 22 on the money list after never finishing better than 30th in earnings.

“I think the first one has to be the hardest,” said Bowie, whose previous-best finish was a tie for second at the 2003 Office Depot, four shots behind Annika Sorenstam.

Bowie led by one in regulation before faltering with a costly bogey at the par-5 17th to drop her into a four-way tie for the lead, which Park (66) joined with a birdie at the 17th. Third-round leader Hee-Won Han (73) bogeyed No. 17 and Sung Ah Yim (68) bogeyed the final hole to finish at 9 under and leave Bowie and Park alone in the playoff.

Han began Sunday with a two-shot advantage and led by four strokes with eight holes to play before collapsing with three bogeys and a double bogey in the final eight holes.

In the playoff, after making clutch putts of 10 and 20 feet, respectively, on each of the first two holes, Park practically handed Bowie the title on the third extra hole – the par-5 18th.

After hitting her drive into thick right rough, Park hooked a low second shot into a creek. She took a drop, then sailed her fourth shot into a white towel in the gallery on her way to triple bogey. Bowie hit her first two shots into the fairway, then hit safely onto the green and calmly two-putted from 22 feet.

Finally, after eight long years, something easy.




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