Story by Catharine Lo
Mother Nature may have provided the glorious rainbow that emerged over the Cook pines bordering the Bay Course during the inaugural Kapalua LPGA Classic, but Morgan Pressel delivered the pot of gold at the end. The twenty-year-old golfer—and Kapalua’s touring pro—sank a fifteen-foot putt for birdie on the final hole for a three-under 69, edging out Suzann Pettersen by a stroke and securing her first Tour victory of the season and the second of her career. Pressel finished at eight-under 280 and earned $225,000.
According to Kapalua’s senior VP of resort operations, Gary Planos, steady trade winds created conditions that were “not easy at all any of the four days.” At the turn of the final round, Pressel was behind five-time Tour winner Pettersen by three strokes. She came back with a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-four sixteenth hole, one of the rolling course’s most difficult. Tension escalating, she went on to make par on seventeen. The birdie on eighteen clinched her win, denying Pettersen a playoff and proving Pressel’s mettle to the group she now affectionately calls her “Kapalua family.”
Her partners at Kapalua couldn’t have been more delighted. Impressed by a visit to the resort in early 2007, Pressel had written a thank-you note to Planos with the addendum, “If you’re ever interested in female representation, let me know.” Planos saw much promise in Pressel, who won last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship to become the youngest player in Tour history to win a major. Confident she would be an outstanding representative for Kapalua, the resort signed with her last July.
“Having Morgan win was the icing on the cake,” Planos says proudly. “She took on the responsibilities of being our touring pro that week with a big smile.
“There was a certain degree of pressure, being paired with Annika [Sorenstam] and Lorena [Ochoa]—two of the world’s best—and at a time when she was working on some fairly major swing changes.” Citing her clutch putts on the final three holes, Planos adds, “I think her putter came through with flying colors.”
“I was nervous out there,” Pressel admitted in a post-tournament press conference. “I knew that that birdie on sixteen was just what I needed at the right time. On eighteen, I didn’t want to go extra holes.” Sitting on the fringe after a slightly short pitch shot, she holed her putt with what should have been a standard two-putt—and celebrated the exciting finish with happy tears.
“Morgan’s victory was a great validation of the direction we’re taking with the LPGA,” Planos says. Of the many championships Kapalua has hosted since 1982, he believes this was one of the most fun. “There was a tremendous amount of positive energy generated with the LPGA here, and the entire resort felt the buzz.”
Kapalua Resort has an agreement with the LPGA through 2012. For more information on the 2009 tournament, visit www.kapalua.com.