KISSIMMEE, Fla. (August 26, 2015) – PGA/LPGA Professional Laurie Rinker of Stuart, Florida, took dead aim Wednesday, posting a near flawless 7-under-par 65, to capture her first LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals National Championship and secure another trip to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Rinker, 51, finished with a four-stroke triumph over three-time defending champion Jean Bartholomew of Garden City, New York, and PGA Professional Karen Paolozzi of Atlanta, Georgia.
Rinker’s 54-hole total of 9-under-par 207 at Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, gave the former LPGA Tour member a victory in her second appearance in the Championship. The owner and director of instruction of Rinker Golf earned a $10,000 winner’s check and will return for the second consecutive year to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, June 9-12, 2016, at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.
“Today, I just hit the ball closer to the hole and had only one birdie putt over 10 feet,” said Rinker, who finished tied for third last year. “I was firing at the pins. I had played at Reunion [Resort] about 12 years ago and didn’t really do that well. This week, things felt different. I probably only missed six greens in three days.”
Rinker began the day two shots behind second-round leader Lisa Grimes and pulled herself even with Grimes at 5-under through nine holes. Rinker didn’t lose momentum, collecting five back-nine birdies, including a pair of three-footers at Nos. 16 and 18.
Paolozzi, who was runner-up last year to Bartholomew, also will book a return trip to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. However, Paolozzi nearly let her chances slip away with a quadruple bogey 8 on the par-4 seventh hole.
“After all of that, I was just two strokes back of the group I was playing with,” said Paolozzi, the PGA Assistant Professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta. “I tried to get back as quickly as I could, and still managed to finish with a 70. It will be great to be getting a second chance in a major. I kind of know what to expect this time around.”
In her acceptance speech, Rinker joked that she was happy to win the “Jean Open” and knew her good friend in Bartholomew would be tough to unseat as champion.
Rinker said that she’s looking forward to a return visit to KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, an event she’s very familiar with but a venue she’s not. Rinker’s last LPGA Tour event was the 2009 LPGA Championship and her best finish in a major, tying for third in 1987.
“I feel that I will be able to work more on my game this year than last,” said Rinker. “The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship was handled so well last June, and it’s a great partnership between KPMG, the PGA of America and the LPGA. I’m looking forward to being a part of it again.”
Rinker said that her brother, PGA Professional Lee Rinker of Jupiter, Florida, may be getting a few extra calls from her. Lee, competed in the 1998 PGA Championship when it was held at Sahalee.
Rounding out the top eight finishers earning a KPMG Women’s PGA Championship berth were: Rinker, Bartholomew, Paolozzi, Jennifer Bermingham, Long Beach, California; Lisa Grimes, Alexandria, Minnesota; Jessica Carafiello, Coral Springs, Florida; Hillery Wilson, Maryland Heights, Missouri; and Elizabeth Caron, West Hartford, Connecticut.
Top Eight Finishers
Laurie Rinker 72-70-65--207
Jean Bartholomew 69-72-70--211
Karen Paolozzi 69-72-70--211
Jennifer Bermingham 74-69-70--213
Lisa Grimes 70-70-73--213
Jessica Carafiello 71-73-70--214
Hillery Wilson 73-72-69--214
Elizabeth Caron 71-70-73 -215
*all eight players clinched spots in 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship