Nannette Hill Battles Wind For First Professional Title In Hammond, Ind.
Article Courtesy of Duramed FUTURES Tour
HAMMOND, Ind., June 27, 2010 - As the day's relentless winds of Northwest Indiana hammered hopes and blew away a few dreams, at least one player held on to her hat with a smile on her face.
Rookie Nannette Hill saw her name at the top of the leaderboard as she wrapped up today's final round at the $110,000 City of Hammond Classic. Walking up the 18th fairway, Hill couldn't help but think about how Coach Dianne Dailey used to send out her Wake Forest University team to play practice rounds in wind and rain.
"She made us qualify on the worst days on purpose," laughed Hill, 23, of Pelham, N.Y. "We didn't like it, but it made us better. And now, it's paid off."
Hill earned her first professional win and a champion's check of $15,400 today, outlasting the rest of the field in gusting winds for a two-shot victory. The New Yorker posted rounds of 70-68-71 for a 7-under total of 209 at Lost Marsh Golf Course, at the fifth annual event presented by Horseshoe Casino Hammond.
The former Wake Forest Deacon edged good friend and fellow rookie Chelsea Curtis (71) of New Seabury, Mass., who tied for second at 5-under 211 with Esther Choe (74) of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jenny Shin (77) of Torrance, Calif.
Last week's winner, Jennifer Song (71) of Ann Arbor, Mich., battled her way into a tie for fifth at 4-under 212, with Pornanong Phatlum (73) of Chaiyaphum, Thailand.
"I can't tell you how nervous I was on 18," said Hill, who recorded 16 top-10 finishes, including one win, while at Wake Forest. "The club felt like jelly. I was just trying to think of positive things."
Today's final round on the wind-blown, 6,219-yard course had as much to do with attitude, tenacity and patience as it did with technique. At 9:10 a.m. (CDT) today, play was halted for nearly three hours as a vicious thunderstorm ripped through the region, dumping rain and producing heavy lightning. But while players were forced to sit out the storm, Hill was in the clubhouse debating with her peers about "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" in the popular "Twilight" series. During the storm delay, she even took a poll of those in the room to settle the debate, asking for a show of hands.
"She hates to lose," said Curtis, a recent graduate of Georgetown University. "And that's in anything."
But it was Hill's own helping hand that finally pushed her over the proverbial hump this week of her roller-coaster rookie season. In the wind today, every shot was a fight, but Hill found a way to enjoy the challenge. She landed short on the par-3 eighth hole and missed her par putt, but then she evened out the bogey with a birdie from six feet on the 10th hole. Facing the par-five, 13th hole, one that she had bogeyed for the last two rounds, Hill stroked her approach to two feet and drained it for birdie.
And on the tough-playing 18th, a par-four, 386-yard hole that was playing dead into the wind, Hill hit driver, 3-wood to 15 feet and took her two-putt par to the scoring table.
"That last hole was a gut check in the wind," said Hill's caddie Phil Mueller, who served as her looper last week at the Tour's event in Decatur, Ill., and opted to drive over and help Hill again this week. "She played exactly how we wanted to play today. She was consistent with a lot of clutch shots."
Curtis was hoping for her own first professional win this week, but she was able to hit only 12 greens in regulation in a round that included three birdies and two bogeys. She rolled in a 20 footer for birdie on the 17th, but gave it back with a bogey on No. 18 when her 4-wood landed short of the green and she failed to get up and down for par from 15 feet.
"That 18th hole was a monster - a real beast," said Curtis. "I don't think I took advantage of the back nine as well as I could have."
Shin, 17, the second-round leader, admittedly struggled in the wind. But most of her trouble came on the greens. She three-putted No. 9 for a double-bogey and finished the day with three birdies and two bogeys.
"I think I backed off every single shot I had," said the Californian. "I've never played in this kind of wind. I thought the ball was moving, but it was me that was blowing around."
Choe also struggled to adjust in the gusts. She carded four bogeys and two birdies, and had two three-putt greens.
"My ball was shaking on the green and I was afraid to ground my putter," said Choe, 20, who hit 12 greens in regulation today. "I don't think I've ever played in wind like this and I was a little uncomfortable over the ball all day."
Choe did scramble on the final hole to save par and remain in a tie for second. From a difficult lie in the rough on No. 18, she punched out with a Rescue club, then stuck her 52-degree wedge from 50 yards to 12 feet and made the putt.
"I didn't win, but I'm there again, knocking on the door," said Choe, who has four top-10 finishes in 10 events this season.
With her win, Hill jumped from 50th on the Duramed FUTURES Tour's money list to No. 14. She also joins five other Wake Forest alums who have won on the Tour. They are: Debby Rhodes (1986); Brenda Corrie Kuehn (1988); Sonia Bauer (1998); Laura (Philo) Diaz, three wins in 1997 and 1998; and Ashley Hoagland (2006).
And it was a big move for a player who missed back-to-back cuts three weeks ago and wrestled with her rookie confidence.
"I had to reevaluate my confidence and what I was doing out here," she said. "Once you're done with college and out here on your own, you have to be organized, disciplined and structured. You have to understand your strengths and weaknesses. I remember it was so hard to balance school work and golf, but now, I think a lot of those skills are making me successful at what I do."
Coach Dailey sent Hill an email this morning before her final round and wished her former college player good luck. The coach also typed in the simple word "tempo."
It worked. The rookie found her rhythm today.
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