LAFAYETTE, La., April 19, 2009 - There were starts and stops and far too many drops, but the rain-shortened $90,000 Louisiana Pelican Classic ended on a sunny note today when Canadian Samantha Richdale fired a personal-best score of 66 to emerge as the best mudder and winner of the fourth annual tournament.
Richdale carded a two-under-par 70 on Friday at The Wetlands, and was on the second green when the second round was suspended on Saturday. When play resumed today, she finished up the hole almost 24 hours later with a 12 footer for birdie that jump-started her day. Richdale attacked the course and won by three shots at 136 (-8).
Rookie Christine Song (70) of Fullerton, Calif., finished second at 139 (-5), while Danah Ford (68) of Indianapolis and Haeji Kang (71) of Seoul, South Korea tied for third at 140 (-4).
"I was pretty nervous about today with so much waiting around," said Richdale of Kelowna, British Columbia. "I just tried to go for the greens and pins that I could go for. I'm happy with the turnout."
The week's first weather delay started on Saturday morning. The Wetlands was exactly that after nearly an inch and a half of rain saturated the course on Friday night, making it unplayable for Saturday's first tee times. Tour officials issued a two-hour delay to allow standing water on the tees and landing areas of several fairways to drain.
That pushed back the last tee times from a 2:30 p.m. (CDT) start to a 4:30 p.m. start. The rain returned around 4:40 p.m., followed by lightning, and play was suspended for dangerous weather at 4:50 p.m.
But when 2 1/2 more inches of rain fell on Saturday night, the Tour's attempt to restart Saturday's second round at 7:30 a.m., was pushed back to 1 p.m. today. Grounds crews were still pumping water out of bunkers around noon while Tour staff members and tournament organizers huddled over a decision.
"The course conditions didn't warrant starting before 1 p.m. and the fact that we could not complete a final round on Sunday led to the decision to make this a 36-hole tournament," said Christy Barks, vice president of tournament operations for the Duramed FUTURES Tour. "It's disappointing any time you're not able to get in 54 holes and it's hard on the players to get ready to play, then have to wait. But we can't do anything about Mother Nature and this is an outdoor sport."
But if anybody can make the best of swampy conditions, it was perfect timing that this week's event was in Cajun Country, where a can-do attitude prevails, right alongside the "grits and grillades" on Sunday in the VIP tent. The always kind-hearted locals made the best of the mess while apologizing for the rain.
"Everybody thinks we ride around in pirogues (boats) down here anyway, but I guess today, we are," laughed tournament volunteer Caroline Roy of Lafayette.
A boat would have been handy early in the day, but by noon, the sun came back out, the wind picked up and 72 players who returned to finish Saturday's round slogged on. They took advantage of the "lift-clean-and-place" ruling in effect and dodged large bodies of water that still remained in several fairways.
"There were lakes out there that weren't there two days ago," said Tour member Meghan Little of Sturgis, S.D., who tied for 21st at even-par 144.
First-round leader Liz Janangelo (77) of West Hartford, Conn., never returned to the same form she brought to The Wetlands on Friday when she tore up the course with a 65. Today, she had five bogeys and no birdies and slid into a tie for ninth at 142 (-2).
Danah Ford made a run at Richdale with four birdies and a critical par save on the 18th when she gassed her approach shot over the green and had to chip from behind the bleachers.
"I tried to hit a punch 9-iron to keep it under the wind, but I guess I had a little adrenalin going," laughed Ford.
Song, a 17-year-old rookie, started the day four shots off the lead, but closed the gap with four birdies and two bogeys this afternoon.
"At first, I was trying to play conservatively, but I took advantage of my chances," she said. "I'm very satisfied."
Alison Walshe (70) of Westford, Mass., chased the leaders, but ran out of holes. She finished tied for ninth at 142 (-2) for her third consecutive top-10 finish.
"When a tournament is shortened to 36 holes, you've got to go for everything," said the rookie pro, who played in this tournament three years ago as an amateur while at Tulane University.
But today was Richdale's sprint to win. With two birdies on her first four holes, and a bogey at No. 7, the quiet Canadian took charge of the tournament with an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole. Playing from a fairway bunker 213 yards out, she pulled her 17-degree Rescue hybrid club and holed out to tie for the lead when Janangelo bogeyed the eighth hole.
Richdale took the lead with a birdie from three feet on No. 11, and then began adding insurance with birdies on 13 and 15. On the last hole, she hit past the flagstick to the back fringe and got up and down for par from 25 feet above the hole for her three-shot victory and second career win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour.
She managed her game impeccably around the soggy course, once again with caddie Paulie Maggiore on the bag for his fourth win on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. But Richdale credits a putting lesson last week with short-game guru Marius Filmalter for her success this week. And she also read sports psychologist Gio Valiante's book, "Fearless Golf," earlier this year, which she says has changed her approach to the way she plays.
"I've tried to focus more on my targets rather than where I don't want to go and I've been able to hit a lot better shots," said Richdale, who hit 14 greens in regulation and needed only 25 putts today.
Maybe it wasn't always pretty out there and maybe a little more sunshine would have helped this week, but Richdale is not complaining. Mud or not, pirogue or dry land, she was this year's winner in Cajun Country.
For scores and more information, visit duramedfuturestour.com.