Davies Springs Surprise
Davies, a former LPGA Tour player who now teaches in Carefree, Ariz., near Scottsdale, fired a tournament-low 67 in the final round at Pinehurst Resort's No. 8 Course to make up a five-shot deficit and force a playoff with Hirst.
A birdie on that first hole, the par-5 17th at No. 8, sealed the deal, earning her a check for $13,000 and a berth in the LPGA Champion-ship next spring.
Virtually no one was paying attention to the 40-year-old Davies as she crept up the leaderboard. Playing three groups ahead of the leaders, Hirst, Alicia Dibos and Laura Brown, who began the final round tied at 1-under-par 143, Davies used a 33 on the front nine to make up four shots, then posted a 34 on the back to catch up. Her rounds were 75-73-67.
Meanwhile, Hirst, an instructor and golf shop employee at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, posted a final-round 72 and thought she had won with her 1-under-par 72-71-72 -- 215 total. She did win $8,775 for second place.
When the two went out for the short-lived playoff, Davies reached the 464-yard par-5 with a 206-yard 4-wood second shot and two putted from 25 feet for birdie. Hirst, who laid up to 83 yards, hit a sand wedge to within 20 feet and barely missed her birdie effort.
"I figured if I could go low, I had a chance," Davies said. "I was hitting it solid and I made a couple of 20-footers for birdies. But the main thing was, I made no mistakes."
Davies spent 12 years on the LPGA Tour, leaving it three years ago without having won a tournament. This was her second start in the T&CP Championship, having finished in the top 10 last year.
"I came in playing well," she said, "and I went out with a good attitude today. I made six birdies and the only bogey I had came on the 11th hole when I hit my tee shot into the waste bunker."
Hirst, who gave birth to a daughter, Alexandra, in March, literally had no idea what to expect from her game.
"I hadn't played an 18-hole round of golf since August of last year," the Cape Town, South African, native who now resides in Pinehurst, said. "I have hit a lot of balls, but I haven't played."
Playing heads-up with Dibos and Brown, Hirst shot 37 on the front but a 35 on the back nine enabled her to take a two-shot lead over Dibos and seven over the faltering Brown. When she holed out her tap-in par putt on the 54th hole, everyone in her group thought she was the champion.
After all, the previous low round of the championship had been a 69 turned in by University of North Carolina women's coach Sally Austin on Tuesday.
"I had no idea what anyone else was doing," Hirst said. "But I don't feel that I lost it. That was a great round that Karen played. She just came and grabbed it."
Dibos, of Greenwich, Conn., finished third and won $6,975, while Cathy Edelen of Northport, Fla., used a 72 to move into fourth and win $5,675.
Kelly McCall of Pinehurst finished tied for 18th with 225 and won $1,375.
Judy Furst shot 221 to win the Senior Division and $3,600. M.J. Smith was a stroke back, winning $2,500.
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