Beatriz Ricari (Spain) and Paula Creamer (USA) came into the final round of the LPGA Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning & O-I sharing the lead at 12 under par and it looked for a while like they were going to match each other, shot-for-shot, for 18 holes. At the turn both had 3 birdies and were playing bogey-free golf. Ricari birdied 14 and pulled ahead. They both birdied 16 and Ricari was still ahead by a stroke. They both shot par on 17 and 18, and Beatriz Ricari won the Marathon by a putt.
The Marathon Classic is Ricari’s 2nd win this season. Ricari, who’s ranked #26 by Rolex, also won the Kia Classic in March and while she missed the cut at the US Women’s Open she’s been playing well and has collected 5 top-10 finishes in addition to her win. Victory continues to elude Creamer. Like Ricari, the Rolex Ranked #14 player in women’s golf, has carded 5 top-10 finishes this year, but she can’t seem to finish on top.
In the “also ran” category, Jodi Eward Shadoff (England) and Lexi Thompson (USA) both finished at -13 and shared the 3rd slot on the board. Right behind them, Angela Stanford (USA) and Jacqui Concolino (USA) both finished at -10 and shared 5th. Amateur Lydia Ko (New Zealand) and Rolex Ranked #2, Stacy Lewis (USA), both finished at -9, sharing the 7th slot on the board. 2012 champ So Yeon Ryu (South Korea) came into the clubhouse just behind Ko and Lewis at -8. Only Rolex Ranked #1, Inbee Park (South Korea) couldn’t keep up the pace. Park’s putter has gone ice cold. With 3 bogeys and 2 birdies, she finished the final round at the Marathon Classic 1 shot over par and wasn’t even close to a top-10 finish.
But there’s another side to this tournament that almost eclipses Ricari’s win and the 72-hole battle involved her her arrival at the top of the board. The Marathon Classic represents a larger comeback for the LPGA Tour. Four years ago, the players at the then Jamie Farr Toledo Classic got together for dinner at Mancy’s Steakhouse and plotted to save the LPGA Tour. The Tour had lost 7 tournaments in the previous 2 years and 16 others either didn’t have sponsors or lacked sponsorship contracts for 2010. There was no national television coverage, the recession had eaten away essential financial support, and there were pockets of resistance to the internationalization of the Tour.
The players themselves forced a turn around and then fueled the LPGA Tour’s comeback with their own energy and commitment. They threw their support to a new commissioner, Mike Whan, who in turn began to transform the Tour, recruiting sponsors, embracing player globalization, and engaging the players in promotion at every level of the game. Whan’s strategy is paying big dividends. Sponsors like Marathon Petroleum are making multi-year commitments to the Tour, tournament purses are rising, and the LPGA Tour events have regular television coverage.
Mike Whan has pumped life and infused energy into the LPGA Tour, but it’s the players who plotted over dinner at Mancy’s 4 years ago who deserve the credit for getting the ball to roll. Without their courage and commitment, there would have been no tournament for Beatriz Ricari to win this week!