LPGA notes: Lewis' momentum; Francella's gig; more

Stacy Lewis kept her momentum going with a runner-up finish at the 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

Stacy Lewis kept her momentum going with a runner-up finish at the 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

Stacy Lewis seemed to be in a fine mood Sunday evening when she loaded her gear into a van headed to the Nassau airport. The frugal Lewis, by the way, still uses a Curtis Cup travel bag that she got from the USGA in 2008. It's a reminder that this Texan isn’t wrapped up in anything except winning golf tournaments.

That’s why we know Lewis didn’t leave Paradise Island satisfied, having come up one stroke shy of Jessica Korda on Sunday at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic. Needing to get up and down for birdie to ultimately force a playoff with Korda, Lewis fluffed a chip shot on the 18th. She made par on the reachable par 5 for the third time that week.

“It's very frustrating,” Lewis said. “The 18th hole has gotten me the last couple tournaments. I've had so many chances to win.”

Lewis finished solo second in four tournaments last year: Safeway Classic (September), Reignwood LPGA Classic (October), Lorena Ochoa Invitational (November) and the LET’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters (December).

She went bogey-free in Portland for the first time in her career and still lost to Suzann Pettersen by two strokes. In China, Shanshan Feng eagled the last hole with a little bit of luck to edge Lewis, who felt like the title had been “taken” from her.

In Mexico, Lexi Thompson made her 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th Sunday while Lewis missed. Thompson clipped her by one.

In Dubai, Pornanong Phatlum hit a 54-degree wedge to 2 feet to birdie the last and beat Lewis, who again managed to make only par, by one.

That’s now five runners-up, counting the Bahamas, in the past five months. Four of the five were decided by one stroke. Lewis’ final-round scoring average was 67.8.

She’s not always a bridesmaid though. Lewis won three tournaments in 2013, including the Ricoh Women’s British Open, where she birdied the last two holes at the Old Course to edge Na Yeon Choi.

“To finish second a lot of weeks in a row, you’re not doing anything really wrong,” Lewis said. “That’s what I’m taking out of it is, I’m doing a lot of stuff right. There’s more events and there’s bigger tournaments this summer, so I’m just going to take this momentum from here.”

• • •

NEW LOOP FOR FRANCELLA: Meaghan Francella knew it was time to think about another career when she left LPGA Q-School last December with no card and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Two days later, she sold her house in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Good friend Alison Walshe bought half of the furniture, and Stacy Lewis helped load the truck.

So what was Francella doing in the Bahamas last week? Looping for Heather Bowie Young, her new boss.

“I still want to be in the competition,” Francella said. “I just don’t want to be the one hitting the shots anymore.”

Francella played seven seasons on the LPGA and won once, beating Annika Sorenstam in a four-hole playoff in Mexico in 2007. The past two years were a huge struggle for the North Carolina graduate. Last year, she won $7,838.

Francella had been bartending at The Bistro in Jupiter and looping part-time at Old Marsh. She called 20 clubs trying to get a caddie job before finding success.

When she decided to take her act to the LPGA, Lewis let Francella loop for her during several practice rounds in south Florida to learn what she could/should say in certain situations. And at dinner in the Bahamas, good friend Paula Creamer gave another piece of advice about trading places.

“She said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you have to own it,’ ” Francella said. “You never know; I might be a lifer. I just love the LPGA.”

• • •

KO-MOTION: Lydia Ko arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday and will begin her title defense Friday at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open. Ko, 16, will be paired with fellow teen sensation Charley Hull in the first two rounds. A victory in Christchurch would give Ko six professional titles worldwide.

After that she’ll head back to Auckland to check in for her final year of high school before continuing her world tour in Australia.

• • •

HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Ariya Jutanugarn began work with Andrew Park last week in ChampionsGate, Fla., while older sister Moriya competed in the Bahamas. Moriya first sought Park’s instruction after the CME Group Titleholders last November. Ariya, injured since the 2013 Wegmans LPGA Championship in June, plans to return to action at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open next month.

All signs seem to point toward an Orlando-area base for the Jutanugarn and Ko families.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: World No. 1 Inbee Park is in the midst of winter training in Australia and plans to make her 2014 start in Thailand. ... Yani Tseng won in Taiwan for the first time in nearly two years yet dropped two more spots in the Rolex Rankings, to No. 41. ... Speaking of rankings, Jessica Korda jumped 16 spots, to No. 24, with her victory in the Bahamas.

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