Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fluke Victories

Whenever a player wins an LPGA tournament they often manage to win another one. If not, they usually have come close to winning before, or they come close to winning again in subsequent seasons. Like most rules, this too has its exceptions. Here are the most unlikely tournament victories we’ve seen since the start of the 2001 season.

1. Hilary Lunke 2003 US Open (North Plains, OR)
The inspiration for this post. In her professional career, Lunke has never accomplished anything even remotely close to this major tournament victory in an 18-hole playoff over Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins. In her five-year career, Hilary has earned $875,839 – 64% of that total came from this one check. In the other 103 tournaments she’s played, her best finish was a tie for 15th and she’s managed to miss 53 cuts. She has two years left to alter her legacy – her five-year exemption expires after the 2008 season.

2. Tina Fischer 2001 Asahi International (North Augusta, SC)
The first German player to win an LPGA event, Tina hasn’t ever threatened to become the first German to win twice. In 121 other starts she has only finished in the Top 10 twice while missing the cut 68 times. The $180,000 this victory awarded her is 39% of her career earnings to date. Fischer edged Emilee Klein and Tracy Hanson by one shot for the win.

3. Birdie Kim 2005 US Open (Cherry Hills Village, CO)
Not satisfied in the knowledge that the public knows her as “Birdie”, Kim sank a bunker shot for “Birdie” on the final hole and held on to win by two strokes over amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang. In her 67 other career starts, she’s managed only one Top 10 (tied for 7th) and missed 35 cuts. Kim was 13th on the money list in 2005 but 78% of that money came from the $560,000 US Open check.

4. Jimin Kang 2005 Corning Classic (Corning, NY)
The only tournament winner I’ve ever seen make a hole-in-one on the Sunday back nine, Jimin won by two shots over Annika Sorenstam and Meena Lee. Otherwise, she’s never finished better than T7 – in 61 starts, she has only two other Top 10s and 21 missed cuts. Even with this victory, Kang only finished 39th on the 2005 money list.

5. Nicole Perrot 2005 Longs Drugs (Auburn, CA)
The first Chilean to win an LPGA event, Nicole does have four other Top 10s in 42 career starts but she’s also missed 19 cuts. Her best finish besides this one was T5.

6. Sung Ah Yim 2006 Florida’s Natural (Stockbridge, GA)
Eight other Top 10s in 50 starts is pretty good, with her best finish a tie for third. The 13 missed cuts is not so good.

The next three ladies had a few near-misses but certainly weren’t expected to win the week they did it:

7. Kate Golden 2001 State Farm Classic (Springfield, IL)
Prior to the 2001 season, Kate’s best finish in 169 starts was fourth with a total of five Top 10s. She finished second twice and scored her highest money list finish (38) in 2002, but her current career line reads 309 starts, 13 Top 10s and 160 missed cuts. By comparison, Sherri Turner has missed 181 cuts in her career but that’s in 538 starts – 74% more starts than Kate. Of course Sherri is also a three-time winner who was the leading money winner in 1988 with more Top 10s that season than Golden has had in her whole 15-year career. Kate Golden deserves some kind of Masochism Award.

8. Moira Dunn 2004 Giant Eagle (Vienna, OH)
Moira has three runner-up finishes and 23 Top 10s in her career, but only one of those Top 10s came in the 2.5 seasons preceding this victory. Dunn has missed 125 cuts in 301 career starts.

9. Kim Saiki 2004 Wegman’s (Rochester, NY)
Like Moira Dunn, Saiki has 23 Top 10s in her career but she has finished second five times including last year’s Safeway Classic. Kim also finished 23rd on the money list the year she won in Rochester. But until that victory she had gone six years without a second place and hadn’t been Top 40 on the money list for seven years. Kim enters 2007 with 112 missed cuts in 331 career starts.

Honorable Mention:

10. Heather Daly-Donofrio 2001 First Union Betsy King Classic (Kutztown, PA) and 2004 Mitchell Tournament Of Champions (Mobile, AL)
I awarded Daly-Donofrio the 2004 Hound Dog Fluke Victory Of The Year before I realized she had won in 2001. I see no reason to withdraw the award. Comparing all the stats, I would rank Heather as only the fifth best player on this list with Perrot and Kang close behind her. 47th on the money list in 2001 is her best finish, with only six other Top 10s and 71 missed cuts in 186 starts. She was about to lose her exemption when she went to Mobile for the last regular tournament in ’04, and damn if she didn’t win to give herself three more years. Watch out for Double-D this November!