MILTON, Ga., May 21, 2016 - Laura Wearn (Charlotte, N.C.) made eagle on hole nine, birdie on hole ten and then nailed a 40-foot birdie putt on 11 and closed with a birdie on 18 to win the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy® Classic at Atlanta National Golf Club by one shot over Madelene Sagstrom (Enkoping, Sweden), who set the all-time single-season earnings record with her sixth top five finish in seven events. Wearn closed at 6-under, 210 after an even-par final day. Kristy McPherson (Conway, S.C.) and Prima Thammaraks (Bangkok, Thailand) finished in a tie for third at 3-under, 213.
Wearn earns her first career win just one year removed from back surgery. The first-place check of $15,000 moves her from 72nd on the Volvik Race for the Card money list up to 17th.
“This win means the world to me, I’m just so excited,” said Wearn. “I haven’t really been that close before so to win the first time I am in contention is really cool. Hopefully I can take what I learned from this experience and win a few more this year.”
Wearn, who entered the day in a share of the lead, started slow with a bogey on one and then a double-bogey on the second hole.
“I was pretty nervous off the first tee and I chunked my tee shot,” explained Wearn. “I had trouble on two also, but on three I hit a great shot and made the birdie and that settled me down. I kept telling myself that it is a long day.”
Six holes later, Wearn made eagle on nine to take a two shot lead and then made birdies on ten and 11. Her birdie on 11 came from the fringe and over 40-feet out.
“I hit two great shots on nine and made the putt and on ten I did the same thing,” said Wearn. “On 11, I drained probably a 40-footer so that was awesome when it went in. I was honestly not expecting it at all, I was just trying to two-putt.”
Wearn’s lead widdled to one after Sagstrom made birdie on 15. On 16, Wearn saved par after hitting her approach shot off a pebble path. Sagstrom made bogey and the lead grew to two. Wearn slipped up on 17 with a bogey and the lead was one to the 18th hole. Wearn and Sagstrom were both on the green in two. Sagstrom missed her eagle putt and Wearn calmly two-putted for birdie to win.
“I saw my friends (Brooke Baker and Jennifer Brumbaugh) on 18 and they were cheering me on and giving me high-fives,” said Wearn. “I was really nervous on that two-foot putt (to win). My hands were shaking. When it went in, I remember them hugging me and dumping water on me. It was really nice of them to come out.”
Wearn’s triumph is remarkable considering she made just $5,238 in 17 events (five cuts made) in 2014 as a rookie and missed nearly the entire 2015 season after having surgery on her back.
“It was a tough process and it was frustrating that I had to miss most of last year,” said Wearn. “Everyone told me that it takes a long time to come back, but you’ll get there eventually and to win just over a year after surgery is awesome. I definitely didn’t think I’d come back that quickly.”
Prior to the win, Wearn had earned a total of $8,830 in 24 tournaments on the Symetra Tour.
“It gives me confidence that I can compete out here and that every week is truly an opportunity to win,” said Wearn. “Confidence is definitely the main thing the win does for me.”
The 25-year-old took advantage of her length off the tee all weekend. She played the par-5 holes in 7-under over three rounds.
SAGSTROM BREAKS SINGLE-SEASON EARNINGS RECORD: Madelene Sagstrom didn’t get the win she was looking for on Saturday to earn a “Battlefield Promotion” to the LPGA, but she did break the all-time single-season Symetra Tour earnings record by finishing second. Her check of $9,467 increased her total to $103,181. She breaks the mark held by Cindy LaCrosse, who earned $94,578 in 15 starts during the 2010 season. Sagstrom is the first person to cross $100,000 in season earnings.
“I don’t play to win, I don’t play to lose, I play to get better and I got a lot better today and that is all I am focusing on,” said Sagstrom, after a 2-under 70. “Of course it is nice to set a record, but I am just trying to get better everyday.”
Her remarkable season now includes two wins and six total top five finishes in seven starts.
“This record just shows the growth of the Symetra Tour,” said Sagstrom. “I feel like I am getting better everyday and getting ready for the next level. This is such a great step to take right after Q-School.”
Sagstrom will not play in Brockton next week or in Albany the following week. Her next event is the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.
BLACK GIRLS GOLF SUPPORTS EVENT: Twenty years ago Tiffany Fitzgerald was trying to climb the corporate ladder in marketing. She was getting frustrated because she wasn’t moving up as quick as others. At a moment of clarity, she realized why. She knew nothing about golf and was never playing with executives in outings like her other colleagues.
“If it was nice on a Thursday or Friday, someone would come down the hall and say ‘who wants to go hit golf balls’ and I knew nothing about golf,” said Fitzgerald, who is now the Founder & CEO of Black Golf Golf. “I realized that younger employees were spending time on the golf course with executives and director level people and building relationships that I didn’t have.”
So, she went to K-Mart and got her first set of clubs. She took a lesson, but wasn’t sold on the sport.
“The instructor wasn’t good that day, but I didn’t see any other women and I didn’t see any other black women,” said Fitzgerald. “I was like ‘this sport is for the birds’ and I stopped playing for a really long time.”
Fast forward to 2012 when Fitzgerald moved to the Atlanta area and decided to start Black Girls Golf, an organization designed to bring African-American women together through the game of golf.
“I couldn’t find a job in 2012 so I decided to start Black Girls Golf,” said Fitzgerald. “Our first outing had 26 women and we didn’t know what we were doing, but it let me know that there are black women out there that want to play golf in a safe environment where people look like them.”
Black Girls Golf now has five chapters around the country in Atlanta, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Central New Jersey and Charlotte. They host clinics, networking events and provide news on the sport.
“I want to be the number one resource for getting women into the game of golf,” said Fitzgerald. “It is not exclusive to black women, I just focus on black women.”
Fitzgerald was out at the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy Classic following Ginger Howard, one of three African-American women with LPGA Tour status.
“I try to provide news about the black golfers that are playing at the professional level and I’ve known about Ginger for a long time,” said Fitzgerald. “I just want to support her and try to spread the news about her to get people to support.”
Fitzgerald is excited about the future of the Gosling’s Dark ’n Stormy Classic and hopes to see more in her network come watch these great athletes.