Story No. 14: Kendall Dye and Mallory Blackwelder Claim First Wins
I (Bret Lasky) remember standing behind the 18th green at Alaqua Country Club and hearing Kendall Dye whisper, “can you record my speech”. I knew right then that this was a big moment for her.
Kendall was four strokes off the lead heading into Monday (rain and lots of it that week) and needed to close strong to claim her first career win. All she did was blaze the trail with a 65 to win comfortably by three strokes.
Her speech was fantastic – from the heart, honest and memorable. She told the crowd gathered that she originally gave herself three years to make it onto the LPGA Tour and a lot of people, even those close to her, told her to find a new career. She stood firm to her dream of playing on the LPGA Tour and she got her first win in her fifth year.
The win at the IOA Golf Classic helped propel Kendall to her LPGA Tour card. She finished the year 8th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
In Kendall’s Words…
Alaqua Country Club was a new tournament site for the Symetra Tour and I had a brand new caddie on the bag that week as well. It was your typical Florida weather: stormy and windy and this time it would require a Monday finish. I was four shots back of the leaders going into the final round. It was a position that I had been in before. The night before my final round, I decided to put a $2 bill in the back of my yardage book. That $2 bill came from Carl “Caddy Machine” Laib who had won 30+ LPGA events caddying with that bill in his money clip. He had told me to put it in my bag to fill up my golf bag with good luck but I had been keeping it in my wallet because I didn’t want anything happening to it. The moment I took that $2 bill and put it in my yardage book, magic happened!
During the round, I played pretty steady on the front nine but I wasn’t making many putts and missed the green from 100 yards out and failed to get up and down for par on the third hole. I was getting pretty fed up at the turn and I thought the tournament was really between two other girls in my group. My caddie could tell that I was getting a little frustrated because I was not making a move. Ras told me “you’ve got a ton of time, patience.” I heard her, but in my mind I couldn’t stay patient much longer. I’ve only got 9 more holes to make a move. It was a different day since we were playing on a Monday and lost a ton of volunteers so our scoreboard was hooked up on the back of our cart. I never knew who was shooting what, but I knew I was down. Then the back nine happened.
I birdied the 10th. I birdied the 12th. I birdied the 13th. I birdied the 15th. I HOLED OUT from 75 yards on the 16th for eagle and by the time I reached the 17th tee box I was ahead by 4 shots. I went on to finish par, par and won by 3 shots. The moment the ball dropped on 18 I had Mallory Blackwelder, Sara Brown, and Calle Nielson rush the green and pour water all over me. I was wearing white. Next time I’ll plan better.
Winning is sort of like hole-in-one feelings. Nothing beats it.
It was a dream pairing on the final day in Charlotte for Mallory Blackwelder, who knew her first win was in sight. She was playing with good friends Emily Talley and Kendall Dye. She still had to play well.
Just like in Dye’s case, Blackwelder had played on Tour since 2010 and was entering her 43rd event without a win.
All she did on Saturday in Charlotte was fire a 5-under 67 to win by two strokes over Talley.
Her quote after the win really sums up how badly Mallory wanted to win.
“I have been thinking about it for a long time and it’s really surreal.”
Mallory’s mom, Myra, who was the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1980, was in Charlotte to watch her daughter win for the first time.
Again, just like Dye, Blackwelder went onto get her LPGA Tour card by finishing tenth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
In Mallory’s words…
When I went to bed the night before the final round in Charlotte, I had a sense of peace. I knew I was (a few or one shot behind... I can't remember exactly!) coming from behind, but I just had a feeling that I was going to play well on Sunday. I was fairly nervous on the first tee, but I hit what I thought was a great drive. I got up to the ball and it was barely in the fairway bunker, where I really had no shot but to pitch out. Somehow, I contained my frustration and told myself there were plenty of birdies to be made for the day. Sure enough, I went on to bogey the first hole but made six birdies after that to shoot five under and win the tournament. It was so much fun to play that well on Sunday alongside two friends, Emily Talley and Kendall Dye. Putting out on 18 realizing I had won was one of the best feelings of my life! I broke down in tears knowing how much a win on the Symetra Tour means, especially after playing as long as I had! The win in Charlotte definitely made my year and allowed me to realize my dream of finishing Top-10 on the money list and earning full LPGA status for next year!