Kendall Dye captured her third career Symetra Tour title on July 29 in Albany, N.Y. at the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY. Following the win, the former University of Oklahoma standout jumped 46 spots in the Volvik Race for the Card to No. 20. Her two other victories came at the 2017 Four Winds Invitational and 2014 IOA Golf Classic. Below, Dye takes us through her most recent venture into the winner’s circle with a fun and insightful look at her week in the Empire State, including a glimpse into her season leading up to the event.
Man, what a week it has been! I’m unsure where to begin, but I guess I’ll jump right in.
Yep. I haven’t done crap on the golf course this entire year and I won on Sunday, July 29 in Albany at the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY. Most may say it came out of nowhere, but I knew something great was right around the corner after enduring a season of heartbreak and last second failures to miss the weekends. If I didn’t know what persistence, hard work and belief could create, I sure know it now.
I have missed every single cut on the LPGA Tour this season by anywhere from 1-3 shots each week. That stat can eat up a person’s soul! I wasn’t piecing everything together, but I would see moments of brilliance one day and not the other, failing to make it to the weekend to see what I was made of. I decided to play in some Symetra Tour events to keep myself fresh and find some much-needed confidence. I had a nice finish earlier this year on the Symetra Tour in Charlotte, N.C. at the Symetra Classic, finishing tied for fifth, but I left extremely disappointed, knowing I could not have shot any worse and knowing in my noggin I should have been more in the hunt than I was.
I played in Rochester, N.Y. three weeks ago and had my good friend Jenee Vanderstyne on the golf bag. We finished tied for 32nd and on my way over to Albany the day after the event finished, I texted her saying “See why I won’t give it up? I know in my gut I can still win.” I didn’t know that statement would come true less than seven days later, but it did! God’s plan is always greater.
My first round in Albany was supposed to begin at 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon, but I only got up to an 8-iron on the driving range during my warmup. The horns sounded and we were all called in to take shelter from the lightning. No one knew that straight line winds were going to be a part of the storm. Country music artist Chase Rice was supposed to perform that night behind the 18th green, but the storm caused the stage to collapse all over his music equipment. Not a great situation there. After hours of waiting around, we were all told to go home and come back the next morning to try again.
I get out to the golf course on Saturday morning only to be told there was another delay. The golf course maintenance staff needed more time to get the course playable because we had another storm overnight that put them behind the eight-ball. I knew that weather was going to be a story for the weekend and had mentally prepared to be the toughest one in the field. I had also brought along my book and phone charger to keep myself occupied and make the time pass quicker. Thankfully, we have a lot of fun girls on Tour who just want to have a good time and crack jokes, so I surrounded myself with those people.
I finally get on the golf course and didn’t know what to expect when it came to the green speeds and conditions. I was surprised when my first putt of the day rolled nicely and down into the cup. Boom, 1-under. I made another nice putt on the fourth for bird, missed a six footer on No. 5, made a 15-foot putt from off the fringe on No. 6, another 20 footer on No. 7, missed a four foot attempt on No. 8 and then made a 25-foot bomb on No. 9 to go out in 31. I told my caddie at the turn that we had 11 putts and if I wouldn’t have missed those two shorties we could’ve had less than 10! Shoulda. Coulda. Woulda.
Made another nice bird on No. 11 from above the hole and unfortunately found a three-putt on the par-5 12th from 20 feet. That’s ok because I stuck it on 13 for another birdie. We got to 15 and saw lightning in the distance even though it was sunny over the golf course. Horns blew. We waited three-and-a-half hours during that delay. I told my local caddie Paul to go ahead and get out of there because he had to attend his niece’s wedding. I had my long-time buddy and LPGA Tour caddie Rick Kropf caddy the last three-and-a-half holes for me that night. We came back out and I failed to get up and down for par on 15, but that was ok because I made birdies on 16 and 17 which was a gift. No. 17 is a gorgeous par-4, but a toughie! I was hoping to birdie the 18th hole to get to 63—a score I have never touched—but unfortunately I had some distractions and brain farts (maybe from the long day) and made a dumb bogey. A 6-under par, 65! Nice start with nine birdies in what I’d call poor conditions.
Officials decided Saturday afternoon to reduce the event to 36 holes because there was no way we were going to get 54 in. I knew that coming out on Sunday, a 65 was going to be hard to repeat. Conditions were soft, so if I hit it tight like I did the day before, I would have plenty of opportunities. We were not re-paired since there wasn’t time so I stayed in my fun group with my two buddies, Clariss Guce and Hyemin Kim. Clariss got off to a beautiful start and by the second hole (No. 11), we were tied. I knew it was early in the day and I could make my birdies drop in different ways, so I stayed calm and expected her to make everything she looked at. I made birdies on 12 and 16 to make the turn at 8-under par overall. I made an idiotic bogey on the par-5 1st with a three-putt, but that was ok because I stuck it on No. 2 to get it right back. It was getting toward the nitty gritty end and I continued to leave my birdie putts short and dead in the heart. Once I got to No. 6, I was bound and determined to give it a chance. I hit it way too hard and made a sick comeback par putt. Whew. I was still in it against Clariss. I hit a sexy 7-iron up on the seventh and told my caddie we need to get to 10-under to make the others come and chase me that afternoon. I made that awesome birdie putt and was pumped. I knew I could most likely have a great chance at birdie on the par-5 8th, which I played absolutely perfect. Hit my tee ball, wanted 85 yards left so I laid up with my hybrid and had exactly that left to the pin! I love when my plans work out. From there, hit the 55-degree wedge pin-high. Three feet left. I was mad it didn’t leak right with the left to right wind, but that’s ok because I made my putt.
I didn’t know what I needed to do on my final hole, No. 9, but I made a nice little par and signed my scorecard. Leader in the clubhouse at 12:50 p.m.
Now what to do?! I had at least seven hours to twiddle my thumbs and wait for the other wave to go and play their 18-hole final round. I thought I would go have lunch, get a pedicure, see a movie, something! But instead, I had a nice lunch with my caddie at the course and ended up sitting by myself or with a friend in the VIP tent behind the 18th green for most of the afternoon. I can only imagine what it looked like online to others so far away as I was receiving FaceTime and phone calls, texts and emails congratulating me. I had to respond, “Not yet…it’s not over…etc.”
Once the IT guy from the Tour told me that it was mathematically impossible for anyone else to beat me, I decided to call my 86-year-old grandma Gran to tell her the good news before she went to Sunday night church at Ellendale Baptist Church. She was so excited and told me, “That’s how Gran wants you to play every week.” I had to tell her that I chose the wrong sport to be that successful every single weekend. As I walked out of the tournament office trailer I saw our media guy run to the final green because Elizabeth Szokol had just finished birdie-eagle and if she truly birdied her final hole, we would be tied at 10-under.
I thought I had been told it was mathematically impossible for anyone to catch me. Did they not know that in golf, or any sport for that matter, anything can happen until the buzzer sounds?
Guess what? Elizabeth birdied her final hole.
I received texts from the Tour saying I have time to go warmup for a playoff.
I’m sorry, but are you kidding me? How can this happen? I’m in disbelief as I walk out to the truck to put my shoes on, get my clubs out, scrounge around to find range balls and start warming up. All after more than seven hours since being done with my final round.
I was striping it as my caddie Paul and I are on the range talking about the situation and our gameplan for our playoff hole.
“Well, I guess it’ll be sweet to make an ace to win it in the playoff.”
As I’m switching clubs I see the tournament director Jim Miller run up on to the range.
“THE SCORE IS WRONG! THE SCORE IS WRONG! YOU WON! YOU WON!”
I reply, “I’m sorry. WHAT? This is insane and I don’t believe any of you anymore until I hear from Elizabeth herself.”
As I say this I see Elizabeth walking up the hill to the range with the biggest smile on her face and once we greet one another she tells me. Her scorekeeper had her score wrong all day and got it wrong again late in the round. I had indeed won the golf tournament and no playoff was needed.
Talk about relief. I wasn’t mad to hear what she was saying. She was pleased with herself and her great play, and she was genuinely happy for me and my win. That girl has a heart of gold and I cannot wait to see her crush it next year on the LPGA Tour.
After all of those hours of being bored and waiting around, the last hour was quite dramatic all because a (very sweet and I’m sure generous) volunteer scorekeeper had her score wrong. I was able to FaceTime back my family and tell them the good news and then we were off to do interviews, a speech and pictures.
The neatest thing about winning is the aftereffects. Social media is a beautiful thing in one regard because it reaches so many people and I was able to hear from absolutely so many people from all parts of my life. I have absolutely loved receiving messages, however, it has been extremely overwhelming. I always strive to respond to people, but I have had a tough time in the last week because I flew home to be with family and friends. I tried my hardest not to live on my devices and I’m slowly getting back to people, but I’ve had so many “pinch me” moments. Receiving voicemails from Hall of Fame members, LPGA staff members, friends from when I was three years old living in Tennessee. My best and closest people in my life are feeling the success as well because of how much energy they have put in to me and my career. This win wasn’t just about me. It’s about my family, my friends, coaches, teachers, Africa. I have been incredibly blessed with the people God has placed in my life and winning brings them out of the woodwork to reveal how great I’ve got it.
All I can say is I can’t wait for the next victory!