Tanco leaves no doubt with Annika Invite win
REUNION, Fla. – Victoria Tanco is a difficult player to hold off, especially when she’s in pursuit of a major title.
The 15-year old won her fourth AJGA invitational Monday at the Annika Invitational at Reunion Resort’s Independence Course, never wavering as she went head-to-head against last week’s Junior Heritage winner, Laetitia Beck.
Tanco, Golfweek’s second-ranked junior, surged into a share of the lead with Beck in Round 2 after shooting 6-under 66. The pair entered Monday’s final round at 5-under 139, six shots clear of the field.
Reigning Rolex Junior Player of the Year Victoria Tanco talks about her Presidents Day victory at the Annika Invitational, her fourth AJGA invitational title.
Tanco opened the final round birdie-bogey-birdie, then bogeyed No. 5 to keep pace with Beck. In what was by the far the best weather of the tournament – chilly temperatures plagued the first two rounds – Tanco and Beck made the turn locked at even par for the day and 5 under for the tournament.
Beck fell a shot behind Tanco after a bogey on the par-4 10th. Tanco took advantage on No. 11, booming a drive down the middle of the fairway to set up another par. Beck put her second shot on the edge of a greenside bunker, leaving herself with a tricky lie. She couldn’t convert the 10-footer and fell two shots back.
“I made a really bad mistake on No. 11, so then I was upset on my second shot,” Beck said. “I guess it led to a bogey on hole No. 12.”
At the par-3 12th, Beck hit her shot well left of the green into a bunker. She made a third straight bogey. Tanco, who was putting down a severe slope, left herself in tap-in range and took a three-shot lead.
As Tanco’s confidence grew, she concentrated on making pars.
“To win an invitational, it’s very hard,” said Tanco, who was born in Argentina and now lives in Bradenton, Fla. “I won already four and it feels really good.”
Beck, who was chasing her first AJGA invitational title, never managed to mount a charge. She closed in 75 to finish three shots back at 2-under 214.
“I had good opportunities for birdies, I just didn’t make them,” Beck said of the front nine.
After consistently hitting greens to begin of the day, Beck stopped giving herself chances on the back nine and couldn’t get up-and-down.
Annika Invitational (Final Round)
Victoria Tanco won the Annika Invitational Feb. 15 by three shots over Laetitia Beck.
Walking away from the scoring tent after signing her card, Beck pegged her short game as the missing ingredient. Still, the last three months have been anything but disappointing for Beck, who will play for Duke in the fall. She won her fourth FCWT title at the University of Florida Challenge Dec. 6, notched another victory Dec. 23 at the Doral/Publix Junior Classic and edged top-ranked Alexis Thompson by two shots at the Junior Heritage last weekend.
“I’m just starting to get better and get confident in my game and swing,” Beck said.
For Tanco, the victory was made that much more special because tournament host Annika Sorenstam was on the grounds. The week marked the third time Tanco had crossed path with the golf legend, after last year’s Annika Invitational and the U.S. Women’s Open.
“It’s such an honor to have her here,” she said. “It’s like the only time of the year that you can see her and it’s really nice.”
Karen Chung, who has nine top-10 finishes in AJGA events, completed the final pairing Monday and finished five shots back at even-par 216. Starting the day five shots behind the leaders, Chung said she just wanted to focus on staying consistent, and was happy for a final-round 71 that left her in third.
“My long game has been pretty steady this week and that helped me a lot,” Chung said. “My putting hasn’t been that good, but today it came back.”
Jessica Korda, who started 2010 with a bang after a record-breaking victory Jan. 16 at the South Atlantic Amateur, posted her best score of the tournament with a 3-under 69. She finished fourth.
Ashlan Ramsay and Tiffany Lim were T-5 at 5-over 221, followed by six players another shot back in a tie for seventh, including last year’s Annika invitational champion Simin Feng.
Mariah Stackhouse, who recently got an invitation to play in the LPGA Mojo 6 event in Jamaica May 1-2, would have been part of that group, but called a penalty on herself for accidentally moving her ball marker on the green with her putter. She finished T-11 at 7-over 223.
Notes: Yueer Cindy Feng, who finished T-4 at last year’s Annika Invitational, withdrew from the tournament Thursday because of illness. Feng, who expects to play the AJGA event at Innisbrook at the beginning of April, said would try to keep playing but knew she made the right decision when she saw temperatures plummet Saturday.
• As each player walked off the green in the final round, they were met by Sorenstam and her husband, Mike McGee. Sorenstam congratulated players, posed for pictures and mingled among the spectators at the event.
“I think she’s just really a good role model and a good person,” Stackhouse said. “It’s her tournament and a lot of people just put their names on tournaments, but she really makes herself a part of it and I really appreciate that.”
• Between 20 and 30 college coaches were on the grouds at Reunion Resort during the weekend. Cold temperatures? No problem. Many coaches just threw on one or two extra layers – or seven, in the case of LSU coach Karen Bahnsen – to make it through the round.