HARRIS - After Leah Wigger ran into a little trouble on the last hole, she decided it was time to find where she stood in the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass.
Told she had a three-stroke lead, Wigger finished out carefully Sunday to win the Symetra Tour Road to the LPGA title by those same three strokes.
She finished at 7-under-par 209, the same score Stephanie Kim shot last year to win the inaugural tournament at Sweetgrass Golf Club. Kim did not play after undergoing ankle surgery recently.
Leah Wigger, with carved bald eagles hovering in the dead tree, follows through on her putt on No. 13 Sunday at Sweetgrass Golf Club during the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass. She won the Symetra Tour event with 209. For more photos, visit cu.dailypress.net. (Daily Press photo by Dennis Grall)
Wigger broke a tie for the lead with a birdie-3 on No. 10, then protected her margin on a sunny, warm day with a mild breeze. She shot 2-under 70, a day after a scorching 66 put her in position for the title run.
After putting her tee shot into the long grass and then hitting a wedge that stuck in the grass and forced a bunker landing, Wigger asked caddy and fellow Symetra player Vicky Alimonda Lovelady where she stood on the score sheet.
Told she had a three-shot cushion, Wigger said "it made my decision a lot easier. It wasn't time to be stupid and go for the pin just so I could have a birdie."
She laid up left of the green, rolled her chip about six feet past the pin and calmly drained the par putt to prompt a water bottle shower from a group of friends who rushed the green as the ball was still wiggling in the hole.
"Both times I've won with the lead," said the sixth-year professional from Louisville, Ky. "So I know I can close."
Her first title in 2008 was the American Systems Invitational in Daytona Beach, Fla. She ended that year seventh on the LPGA Futures money list and gained conditional status on the LPGA Tour, where she spent two years before dropping back.
She won $15,400 by finishing three strokes ahead of the 142-player field.
Victoria Elizabeth of Dayton, Ohio., Nicole Jeray of Berywn, Ill. and Victoria Park of Chungjoo, South Korea finished at 212 and earned $7,834. Park shot 66-68 on the weekend and finished Sunday with four straight birdies, Elizabeth had 72-69 and Jeray, the tour's oldest player (age 41), had 70-70.
Aimee Neff of Carmel, Ind., Hanna Kang of Seoul, South Korea and Natalie Sheary of West Hartford, Conn. shared fifth at 213. Six other women also finished beneath par.
Birdie Kim, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, was in a seven-way tie for 19th at 217.
Wigger, who climbed into second place for the Volvik Race for the Card money list, was one of seven players who wore red shirts with the phrase "Jesus loves U" on the back, with love in the shape of a heart.
A member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Wigger said she said an early-morning prayer. "I asked for peace. My heart was not racing, I felt at peace," she said, indicating her faith may have made this victory bigger than her initial title "because I feel like more than anything my faith has grown stronger since then."
She began the day with two birdies and had just one bogey, on No. 9, to fall into a tie for the lead with Neff, a good friend and FCA member.
After that bogey, Wigger said "I took a deep breath. You don't want to get ahead of yourself."
She hit a pitching wedge of 100 yards into the 10th green and "I just eased it down there" to the hole for birdie and the lead. "One thing I was really proud of was the way I read the greens."
She parred No. 11, but it came with her first three-putt in the past four tournaments. She missed a short birdie putt and said "I was upset with a lack of focus. I let my mind wander and I didn't stay in the moment," she said. "An extra birdie would have helped calm me and given me a bigger lead."
Neff then chunked a shot out of the bunker on No. 11 and lost another stroke, basically ending her title bid.
"I gave myself a chance but a couple of swings cost me," said Neff, who left immediately for the three-hour drive to Kohler, Wis., where she will play in the U.S. Open this week at Blackwolf Run. "I had far more positives than negatives."
Despite having her first Open waiting, Neff said "I felt very focused (today). It helped playing with Leah. If anyone was going to win, I wanted it to be Leah (an off-season practice partner). It made it more enjoyable. We tried to keep the mood light.
"She definitely deserved it. She played steady."