The first time that Trish Johnson (London, England) played the Pete Dye course at French Lick Resort, she shot 82. While most professionals forget their bad rounds as soon as the ink dries on the scorecard, she vividly remembers that day and can laugh about the ridiculousness of it.
“It was really weird actually,” said Johnson. “It was my rookie appearance and I did everything like a rookie. I came in and I thought this is utterly ridiculous. It’s like I’ve never ever played golf before and 82 was the result.”
Though that first meeting was questionable, the relationship has blossomed into a friendly one with Johnson capturing her second Senior LPGA Championship on Sunday, shooting a final-round 69 to finish one-stroke ahead of Monmouth, Wales native Becky Morgan. The Englishwoman has spent more time with a microphone than a golf club in hand and was commentating the week before the Senior LPGA, something she says helped give her a fresh perspective.
“I was commentating last week so I didn’t exactly know how I’d play,” said Johnson. “But I’d practiced well the week before. I was trying to get a little less technical so it was actually good that I had a week off.”
The renewed mindset paid off as Johnson led through the first two rounds, but it wasn’t the easiest of roads to victory. A hot putter from Morgan had Johnson two down at the turn. With her nose to the grindstone, Johnson carded two birdies on 11 and 12 to get back into a tie for the lead.
“As soon as I saw Becky at seven under after nine, it was as though I sort of went oh crikey. Well that’s that then,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t a case of I’m 5 under and I’m a couple ahead of my playing partners. I was two behind and I know what she’s like, I know how well she can play. It changed my perspective. It just freed me up really to go and make some birdies.”
A double from Morgan on the 16th spelled the end of her day and left Johnson needing a par on the last for the title. Most of the time the walk up 18 is enjoyable, but with so much on the line, Johnson was feeling the magnitude of the moment.
“You know when you’re so desperate to win something and you haven’t done it for quite a long time, you don’t know how you’re going to feel and it’s horrible. I mean it really was horrible,” said the Johnson. “That horrible feeling coming down 18 thinking I need 5 to win after I saw (Becky Morgan) miss her putt. You just think, if I don’t win this I’ve really messed this up, and mind you I’ve done that before. I hit an awful drive down 18 and I just thought the closest way in is just to go the direct route. It’s not going to be very nice but it gives me a chance to just a sort of little wedge in.”
The smart play led to a five and earned Johnson the victory. Behind Morgan in second, Lisa DePaulo (Austin, Texas) and Barb Moxness (Edina, Minn.) settled in a tie for third at -4 overall.
Even though her first meeting with the Dye course was dodgy, it’s a place that Johnson now truly loves. “I always knew I would like it. I’m a huge believer in horses for courses,” she said. “You see people they just like somewhere and it gives them confidence. I was hoping that I’d do well this week.”
DOUBLE BOGEY KNOCKS MORGAN OUT OF RUNNING FOR SENIOR LPGA TITLE
Becky Morgan (Monmouth, Wales) came to French Lick looking for her second-ever professional win, and considering the Welshwoman is one of very few on the Legends of the LPGA that is still consistently competing, it seemed like things could be in her favor this week.
Morgan came into the final round one back of leader Trish Johnson (London, England) and though an unstoppable, fiery putter propelled her to the lead and seven birdies on the day, a double bogey on the 16th hole was just potent enough to derail her chances at victory.
“I didn’t look at the scoreboard all day,” said Morgan who shot 32 on the front nine. “Obviously, No. 16 killed me. I left it in the wrong place off the tee on the left and just didn’t really have much for a shot. Then, I hit a couple of bad putts and three-putted it so I think that was the momentum-killer. At that point, I asked my caddie where we were standing so then I knew that I was behind. I birdied seventeen so I was like well I don’t really have anything to lose now.
“Eighteen I just hit my tee shot a little bit left and it went down the bank. Yardage-wise I could’ve had a crack at it, but it wasn’t sitting quite right so I had to lay up. Then with the pin back it was kind of a hard third shot in. I’m really happy for Trish. I’m a little disappointed in my finish, but it’s a good tournament.”
Although the solo second was a bit disheartening for Morgan, she still takes a lot of positives away from her play at French Lick and enjoyed the reprieve from the long distances she experiences on the other tours on which she plays.
“It’s nice being a long hitter,” said Morgan. “Obviously, the golf course is set up a little shorter than the junior tours and such so it’s just quite nice having short irons into holes. I think my short irons are the best part of my game. I wore out my 9 iron this week so that was nice for me to have a lot of birdie chances. I came in thinking that I could do well.
“I’ve been playing quite well in Europe and I’m playing full-time so I have that advantage over quite a lot of people. But, Trish loves this place so I thought she would be up there. She’s playing really well so I thought I needed to go low today and I had a chance and I just let it slip a little at the end, unfortunately. I’m happy overall.”