BATON ROUGE – Former LSU women’s golfer Melissa Eaton snagged her career-first Symetra Tour title at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic after firing a final round 72 through gusty weather conditions.
The South African entered Sunday’s round with a one-stroke lead over Amelia Lewis and managed to come out as the victor despite a tight battle between the two. Eaton finished her round in extraordinary fashion, sticking a 156-yard second shot to place it within a foot of the hole to finish with an eagle on the par-5 18th.
“I can’t really describe this feeling,” said Eaton of winner her first tournament. “It’s something I’ve visualized for a long time and it’s better than I thought it would be. It’s pretty awesome. I can’t tell you the years of just learning what it takes to get it done and to feel like I’ve got it done today is a pretty good feeling. I’ve really worked hard, especially on my mental game like learning to stay in the present and all of that.”
Eaton had a two-stroke lead over Lewis before a double-bogey on the par-4 8th and the two then went hole-for-hole until a bogey on the par-4 14th gave Lewis a one-stroke lead heading into the final four holes. Eaton posted three-straight pars while Lewis carded par-birdie-bogey to put them in position for a playoff heading into the final hole. Lewis’ second shot landed in a water hazard which caused her to take a bogey for the hole, giving Eaton a three-stroke victory after her eagle.
“The shot was actually exactly the shot I had yesterday so I knew that I’d hit the shot before and that I’d hit it well,” said Eaton of her second shot. “Momentum was kind of on my side since I had been playing well all week so I thought ‘just go with it and hit the shot and don’t think too much about it.’ I was really just trying to hit it solid and get it on the green. For a minute there when I saw it hit the green I thought for a second it was going in. That would have been really cool.”
Eaton’s victory comes in her fourth year on the Symetra Tour, with her previous best-finish being a tie for second at the Pennsylvania Classic in 2010. It was definitely a long awaited victory for the LSU graduate, and she admits to having a few gitters throughout the round because of the position she was in.
“I think just being in this position it was pretty new to me,” said Eaton. “But you know I played solid par golf. The birdies would come and I just tried to be very patient. I didn’t make any of the putts I had made the last two days, I just kind of left them a little short or long. I didn’t have as many spectacular shots but you know coming down on 16 I kind of thought it would be nice to get back to even par and it happened after that eagle so I was happy.”
With Eaton’s win, she replaces Jaclyn Sweeney at the top of the Race for the Card, giving her confirmation that she is right where she needs to be.
“It means a whole lot but I think it’s going to get a little trickier for me choosing where to play this year,” said Eaton. “But my number one goal is to get on the LPGA Tour so I would gladly play the whole year out here and try to do that. I know I’m one step closer now with the win and that’s huge.”
Lewis finished in a tie for second at 7-under with Courtney Massey who posted a 6-under 66, and Sue Kim who went 5-under during Sunday’s round.
The Volvik Race for the Card spotlights movement on the Tour’s 2013 season money list as players jockey for position among the top-10 money winners. This year marks the second year 10 players will receive fully-exempt status on next year’s LPGA Tour.
With a win this week in Winter Haven, Fla., Melissa Eaton took over the coveted top spot in the rankings. Prior to claiming her first professional victory this week, the Port Shepstone, S. Africa native had plans on dividing her time between the Symetra and the Ladies European Team (LET) but after the win Eaton admitted she would now spend the majority of her time on The Road to the LPGA.