Kris Tamulis will never forget her week in Alabama in 2015.
For that was when the veteran, after more than a decade of trying, finally earned her first LPGA Tour victory. Tamulis played 29 superb holes on Sunday at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, closing with rounds of 67 and 65 to finish a stroke ahead of Yani Tseng and 54-hole leader Austin Ernst and become a Rolex First-Time Winner in her 186th career start.
Rain delays forced players to complete their third rounds on Sunday morning, and some withered under the pressure. Tamulis did not and experienced pure joy on that Sunday evening in August.
“It’s amazing. I was definitely not expecting this today,” she said after the win. “I was just out there playing my game, and I had a lot of opportunities for birdie, which was really nice to have. I honestly didn’t even know what I shot until I counted my birdies at the end of the round.
“It was a marathon out there. We were just trying to get it in, beat the weather, and that’s it. So, it's unbelievable.”
Moved ahead in the LPGA schedule to May, the tournament returns to the Senator Course at The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill facility in Prattville, Ala., this week as the Tour completes a four-week Spring stretch. Tamulis, Tseng and Ernst are back this week to take on the par-72 6,599-yard course and chase after the winner’s share of the event’s $1.3 million purse.
Tamulis has struggled this season, making the cut in just four of her 10 starts, but perhaps a return to the place that will always be special to her will inspire red numbers again. She will need plenty of those, as her 17-under-par winning total from a year ago just happens to be the average champions’ score for the event.
Fellow past champions Mi Jung Hur (2014), Stacy Lewis (2012), Katherine Kirk (2010) and Maria McBride (2007) are also teeing it up in ’Bama this week, as are two-time 2016 tournament winner Haru Nomura and tournament champions Hyo Joo Kim and Minjee Lee. Other players to watch include Gerina Piller, Brooke Henderson and Amy Yang when the 72-hole event begins Thursday morning.
This week’s event is the last tournament in a quartet of consecutive weeks before the Tour takes a breather next week. After that break, a grueling 11-week Summer run begins that will greatly affect year-end awards races and crystallize the big battles that will play out the remainder of the year.
Players will enjoy some authentic Southern hospitality this week in Alabama, and one will cap the experience with a triumph they will always treasure.