PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – Same ol’, same ol’ … same ol’.
Karen Paolozzi (68-68-75, 211) of Atlanta posted a closing 75 on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club on Wednesday, yet secured her third Women’s Stroke Play Championship – second in as many years -- by four strokes over Alison Curdt of Los Angeles.
Charlotta Sorenstam (216) finished alone in third place, while PGA of America Vice President Suzy Whaley and Jennifer Bermingham shared fourth at 218.
MORE: Final leaderboard from Women's Stroke Play Championship
Wednesday’s final round served as a fitting coronation for Paolozzi, who was the 36-hole leader by five. The victory afforded her the opportunity to reestablish her dominance and made some history along the way.
Paolozzi became the first three-time winner of the Women’s Stroke Play Championship; only two others – C.J. Reeves (2005, ’09) and Carolyn Barnett-Howe (2006, ’08) – had won this Championship more than once.
“Winning (the Women’s Stroke Play Championship) three times is quite a privilege,” said Paolozzi, whose first victory came in 2014. “I hope to add to it someday, but these ladies are always push me. Fortunately, I played well enough.”
From Paolozzi’s purview, however, the most noteworthy aspect of the 2017 Women’s Stroke Player Championship was established even before the first tee shots were struck on Monday morning.
The strength of the women’s field for the Stroke Play is trending in the right direction. Last year, she won by 14 shots, yet this year, the outcome was in the balance until the last few holes.
“I am encouraged by how other girls continue to work on their games and then come out to play. That's the key,” she said. “I am feeling their results, which is great for everyone. They can all play and I love that they’re closing the gap.”
Her victory sets the stage for what could be a special year.
“I would love to make the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship,” said Paolozzi, the PGA First Assistant Professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, when asked about her goals for 2017. “Jennifer Bermingham showed us last year that it can be done, so that is one thing I am striving for. I'd also like to turn in another strong performance at the PPC (PGA Professional Championship). To play well there last year (tied for seventh at Turning Stone in Verona, New York) was a lot of fun.
For the first time, a coveted berth in the field of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which will be played June 29-July 2 at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, was at stake for the winner, or in this instance, the top non-exempt finisher (Paolozzi had previously qualified by finishing second at the 2016 LPGA T&CP National Championship).
Curdt, playing one group ahead of the leaders -- Paolozzi, Sorenstam and Whaley – parred the difficult par-4, 18th to post a finishing 71 and a three-day total of 215.
Ten minutes later, when Sorenstam’s 6-foot bid for par on 18 slid under the hole, Curdt’s ticket to the second LPGA major of the season was punched for the fourth time. She also played in the Championship in 2012, ’14, and ’15.
“This has not sunk in just yet, but what I am most excited about is how close it is to my family, and how I hope they'll be able to make the trip up from St. Louis. I'm looking forward to that.”
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by GolfAdvisor.com and PrimeSport.
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