Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fluke Victories

Exactly 369 days ago, I listed the most unlikely LPGA victories since the 2001 season. Armed with more historical knowledge, I've now identified the Top 20 Fluke Victories since the 1990 season. The qualifications have been tightened up a little – players with only ONE career victory who give little indication of winning from their other finishes. A low percentage of Top 10s, a high percentage of missed cuts, few or no runner-up/third-place finishes – all these qualities figure into making this list. The players whose names are in ALL-CAPS are still active on the Tour, so they may yet remove themselves from this list with improved results. I am aware that the one-victory rule disqualifies Heather Daly-Donofrio (I’ve punished her enough already). Please note that I’m not breaking the promise I made yesterday – this is certainly NOT a “Top Players” list.

We’ll start once again with the original inspiration for this exercise:

1. HILARY LUNKE - 2003 US Open
Hilary is the only victorious player with at least 50 starts over the last 18 seasons to collect NO other Top 10 finishes. T15 is her career best, aside from this 18-hole playoff victory over Angela Stanford and Kelly Robbins. In 115 career events, Lunke has missed the cut 62 times (53.9%). She received a medical extension this off-season to extend her exempt status through 2009, so Hilary still has two years remaining to escape this notoriety. If she could manage only two Top 10s in that time, she would likely cede the throne to…

2. Tina Purtzer (Tombs) - 1990 Jamie Farr
Three years after her win, Tina got into a playoff with Meg Mallon at the Sara Lee Classic but lost on the third hole. If she had only won that day… The win and the playoff loss were the only Top 10s of Purtzer’s career. In 211 career starts, Tina missed the cut 137 times, an astounding 64.9%. No one else on this list missed the cut even 60% of the time. The later years of Purtzer’s career were interrupted by several “major surgeries” (as
her LPGA stat page puts it) so I was contemplating a sympathetic placement. Then I focused on her numbers prior to the first surgery (1996) and realized that the medical problems didn’t make much of a difference.

3. Tina Fischer - 2001 Asahi International
The only German to win an LPGA tournament collected two more Top 10s in 122 starts but never finished any higher than ninth place. Fischer missed the cut 68 times (55.7%) in seven LPGA seasons. She last played in 2006 – she isn’t listed as an LET or Futures Tour player, so she may have retired.

4. Melissa McNamara - 1991 Stratton Mountain
266 starts, 4 Top 10s, 143 MCs (53.8%) with a sixth-place finish her otherwise best. Melissa, along with #18 Helen Dobson and unlike everyone else on this list, doesn’t merit her own stat page at lpga.com for some reason. For players with that many starts over a multi-year period plus a Tour victory, the omissions are rather strange. I found McNamara's numbers on Golfobserver.com at
this link.

5. Jennifer Wyatt - 1992 Crestar
195 starts, 7 Top 10s, 113 MCs (57.9%), one third-place finish. Jennifer never cracked the Top 50 of the money list (#54 in 1992) in nine full seasons.

6. Laurel Kean - 2000 State Farm
The best story behind these 20 victories has to be Kean’s. A rookie in 1988, Laurel struggled for several years. She managed to crack the money list Top 40 in 1991 (fourth at the US Open that year) but eventually lost her card after the 1998 season. By 2000 she was in her twelfth year, making whatever events she could through Monday qualifying. The Monday before Labor Day she won a sudden-death playoff to get into the State Farm Classic. Kean then proceeded to shoot 66 on three consecutive days and win the event by six shots over Mi Hyun Kim and Dina Ammaccapane. This was the first (and apparently only) LPGA event to ever be won by a qualifying entrant. The win made Laurel exempt through 2003 but her results reverted to norm and by 2006, her career was done. The full line – 372 starts, 14 Top 10s, 194 MCs (52.2%), one second-place and one third.

7. Lisa Kiggens - 1994 Rochester
This All-American at UCLA (1991 NCAA champions) amassed 271 starts, 11 Top 10s, 149 MCs (55%), one second-place and one third-place finish before retiring after the 2003 season.

8. Kathryn Marshall (Imrie) - 1995 Jamie Farr
I gave Nanci Bowen the Fluke award for 1995 but after further review, I’ve decided to proclaim Marshall’s victory as flukier. In a nearly equal number of starts, Bowen managed five finishes of second or third while Kathryn never bested fourth. In 281 career starts, Marshall finished Top 10 12 times and missed 110 cuts (39.1%).

9. Nanci Bowen - 1995 Nabisco
As mentioned above, Bowen loses her Fluke award of ’95. That is not to say she doesn’t deserve extra credit for making her one win a major, joining the select company of Lunke, Kim and Johnston-Forbes. Nanci’s career stats – 304 starts, 14 Top 10s, 128 MCs (42.1%) with a couple of runner-up finishes.

10. CATHY JOHNSTON-FORBES - 1990 du Maurier
Cathy is still officially an active player although she only entered one event in 2007. The cut she missed that week gives her a total of 238 in 487 starts (both numbers are the most of any player on this list) for a 48.9 MC percentage. Her 19 Top 10s include three runner-up finishes.

11. KATE GOLDEN - 2001 State Farm
Golden lost her exempt status going into the 2007 season, had a fairly typical year statistically in a limited schedule but earned just enough cash to finish in the Top 90 and regain her status for 2008. Current totals – 323 starts, 14 Top 10s, 167 MCs (51.7%), two second-place finishes. Last year, I said Kate deserved some sort of Masochism Award. This year, she deserves a Perseverance Award.

12. BIRDIE KIM - 2005 US Open
A year ago I would have put money on Birdie Kim staying near the top of this list. Now she is the second-most likely player to escape it. She’s still missing cuts over half the time (47-89 52.8%, 12 in 22 starts in ‘07) but she doubled her Top 10 total with a runner-up at the Mitchell TOC and a T6 at the Ginn Open. Just a little more improvement in 2008 – maybe three Top 10s and only half-a-dozen MCs – and she’ll fall six or seven more spots.

13. Barb Thomas (Whitehead) - 1995 Cup Noodles
Barb played 11 years on Tour before winning this event in Hawaii, and continued to play through the 2001 season. In both ’95 and ’96 she came up just short of making my Top 30, but her overall numbers put her on this list – 414 starts, 19 Top 10s, 169 MCs (40.8%) and two second-place finishes.

14. Julie Larsen (Piers) - 1995 Edina Realty
Julie finished second only one time in her career and she picked a great place to do it - the 1996 LPGA Championship. In 291 career starts, she collected 14 Top 10s and 126 missed cuts (43.3%).

15. SILVIA CAVALLERI - 2007 Corona
The day after Cavalleri’s win in Mexico,
I called it a Fluke. In her next 16 starts, she failed to prove me wrong – T28 in Thailand was the best she could follow it up with. In nine seasons on Tour, Silvia now has 176 starts, 9 Top 10s, 63 MCs (35.8%) with two third-place finishes (in ’02 and ’04). Her best other result in 2007 was T26 at the Safeway International, five weeks (three events) prior to the Corona.

16. Tracy Kerdyk - 1995 JAL Big Apple
Tracy is the only player on this list who has ever made my Top 30 – she ranked #29 in 1996, the year after this victory. Since that distinction doesn’t exclude her from consideration, I put her at #16 here because of these numbers – 256 starts, 15 Top 10s, 98 MCs (38.3%) and one third-place finish. She did set a record in 1991 with three aces in a single season.

17. Cindy Schreyer - 1993 Sun-Times
A Georgia Bulldog from Forest Park GA, Cindy missed most of 2004 and all of 2005 with various injuries and hasn’t returned. 414 starts, 25 Top 10s, 198 MCs (47.8%) and two times a runner-up.

18. Helen Dobson - 1993 State Farm
The State Farm Classic beats out the US Open and the Jamie Farr for the honor of Most Flukey Tournament (#6, #11, #18). Of course the Farr owns #2 and #8 with one Dishonorable Mention, so it’s a close race. Dobson is a British player who hasn’t played Stateside since 2001. Helen’s numbers – 173 starts, 11 Top 10s, 89 MCs (51.4%) with two second-place finishes.

19. Carolyn Hill - 1994 McCall’s
Hill’s career started reasonably enough, with 10 Top 10s and two runner-up finishes in the first two years. She was 21st on the money list in 1981 but her other stats weren’t good enough for a Top 30 ranking. Thirteen years later, she won the McCall’s but wasn’t able to keep that good thing going. Then an auto accident in ’96 plus the injuries that lingered from it put her out of the game by the end of the decade. 434 starts, 26 Top 10s, 178 MCs (41%) and those two early second-place finishes.

20. JIMIN KANG - 2005 Corning
That Asian girl who always finds the TV camera and smiles, Jimin fought back from a broken bone in her foot in ’06 to pick up two Top 10s in ’07. The odds are very good her name will be completely out of this post the next time I update it. For now – 86 starts, 5 Top 10s, 28 MCs (32.6%) with her best result otherwise being a T6 at the 2007 Mitchell TOC.

Dishonorable Mention: Joan Pitcock (1996 Farr), Kim Saiki-Maloney (2004 Wegmans), Moira Dunn (2004 Giant Eagle), Nicole Perrot (2005 Longs), Amy Fruhwirth (1998 Friendly’s), Sung Ah Yim (2006 Florida’s Natural).


The Constructivist said...

Oh man, I was sweating for Moira--glad to see she's off the list. But why the Dishonorable Mention? How do her overall numbers stack up against the competition?

Hound Dog said...

I thought you might be happy with that! Moira gets DM because, while she's finished Top 10 at a higher percentage than any of the Fluke 20 (7.1% - Dobson 6.4, Schreyer & Hill 6.0) she's also missed the cut 41.8% of her starts. Only 15 of these players have missed it more often.

Consider her to be on probation!

The Constructivist said...

Because of you, I included Moira in my first 2008 preview (of the pre-2000 vets). How close is Kelli Kuehne to fluke win status, BTW?

Hound Dog said...

Kelli is a Dishonorable Mention candidate. Her line: 235 starts, 25 Top 10s, 83 MCs, 3 second-place finishes. She ranked 18th in 1999 and 23rd in 2002, so I originally discounted her because of that. Her Top 10% and MC% don't put her among the Top 20 Flukes.

Thanks for pointing her out to me.

svenson said...

Love your fluke victories list. An honorable mention to Lisa Kiggens, the 1994 Rochester International winner. Nary more than an afterthought on the tour with only a handful of top ten finishes. BTW how did Lunke ever win that tournament!

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FlashJordan said...

As for Lisa Kiggens...I caddied for her in the 1994 Rochester International. My name is John Jordan and I caddied for her most of the 94 campaign. She had all the talent in the world but really worried too much about other things vs. her golf game. We had a great time together and were a pretty good team. We had it rolling that summer but Stephania Croce' messed up our roll at the JAL Championship in NYC. After that we never got that "lovin feelin" back in our golf groove. I would say that Amy Fruhwirth had to be the most random, although she did win the JCPenny Mixed Team event the offseason before her official victory. FLASHJORDAN