OXFORD – Former LPGA and Futures Tour player Jordan Mary Lintz made her Connecticut Women’s Open debut at the Golf Club at Oxford Greens quite memorable.
Lintz, the third-year teaching pro at Great River Golf Club in Milford, parred the second playoff hole to defeat four-time champion Elizabeth Caron, a.k.a. Liz Janangelo, for the biggest win of her career and first in 11 years.
Janangelo, the first-year teaching pro at Rockrimmon CC in Stamford seeking her first win since the Futures Tour in 2007, made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in regulation to take a one-stroke lead, then three-putted the 18th, lipping out a 4-footer for par and the victory.
Janangelo made a Houdini par on the first playoff hole, sinking a 10-foot putt after hooking her drive behind two trees and then lofting her approach over a tree and the green. But the former LPGA and Futures Tour player three-putted the second extra hole, the par-3 second, from 60 feet, missing a 12-footer for par.
When Lintz made a 3-foot par putt, she had her first victory since the 2000 Mountain West Championship while a senior at the University of Wyoming. She earned the $5,000 first prize after closing with a 1-under-par 71, the low round of the tournament, to finish 36 holes at 2-over 146.
“I’m definitely proud of myself for hanging in there, and it’s nice to believe in myself again,” said the 33-year-old Lintz, who played on the LPGA and Futures tours from 2000 to 2007. “I’ve been playing just enough, and I’ve got such a good support group at Great River between the staff and the players and friends that I have there. Today I just never let myself give up. I knew I was right there all day, and I just had a lot of confidence for whatever reason. I hardly ever get to play anymore, but I just felt really good today. I struggled a little at the end, got tight on some putts and left them quite a bit short.
“But I never lost my confidence, just kept going after it, and wasn’t worried where (Caron) was. Maybe in the past I would have been so consumed with where somebody else was, but I just played my own game and just stuck with it. I started to see glimpses of good play in the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open qualifying at Crestview Country Club (in Agawam, Mass.). My first round was horrendous (an 83), but in the second round, I hit some solid shots and started to feel those competitive juices and confidence coming out, and that got me going.”
Caron started the day two ahead of 2007 champion Sue Ginter and was three in front of Lintz and Karen Davies of Wales, a LPGA, Futures and Ladies European Tour player from 1990 to 2004. Caron maintained her lead until No. 9, where she three-putted from 30 feet, missing a 3-footer, after Lintz made a 40-foot putt for birdie 2.
Caron regained the lead when Lintz three-putted the 11th hole from 30 feet, lipping out a 3-footer. But Caron bogeyed the tough 15th while Lintz made par after hooking her drive onto a cart path and having to hit her approach from a side hill lie after taking a drop.
“For a brief second, I considered just punching out and being safe (from a hazard area),” Lintz said. “But when I stood over the shot, I knew I had maybe 105 yards to the front of the green, so I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to lay up?’ I took a 7-iron and choked it way down since it was 125 (yards) to the pin and a 7-iron goes 155 for me. That was a big gamble, but I was confident, choked it way down and took a nice abbreviated swing. I don’t want to have to try that shot again under those circumstances, but it was a nice shot.”
Lintz and Caron each made bogey 4 from behind the 16th green, then Caron hit a deft chip to 6 feet and made the birdie putt to take the lead at No. 17.
But Lintz was given a mulligan when Caron three-putted from the back of the 18th green, running her birdie try 4 feet past the cup.
“I just smashed the first putt too hard and then just didn’t hit a good second putt,” said the 27-year-old Caron, a West Hartford native who married former Nationwide Tour player Jason Caron on Jan. 8. “I got a little nervous because it got windy and I was afraid the ball was going to move, so I backed off. Then I said, ‘Why are you backing off? This doesn’t look good when I’m lining it up.’
“It would have been nice to win, but my swing felt great and then my putting went and I just choked on the last hole (of regulation). But I’m happy with the way I played. My golf game will always be about the same; it’s not going to get much better or much worse. But I’m happy with the state of mind that I’m in with my game. Before I would just quit and feel sorry for myself mentally, but now I’m happy that just a little bit of fire to want to win and do well is back again.”
Davies, who now lives in Carefree, Ariz., shot 73 to finish third at 148, two ahead of Ginter (76), another former LPGA Tour player who is the teaching pro at Rolling Hills CC in Wilton.
Ellie Dutch of Moodus, who plays out of Fox Hopyard GC in East Haddam, shot 75 to finish as low amateur at 154, one ahead of the field’s youngest player, 14-year-old Kelly Whaley, daughter of non-competing three-time winner Suzy Whaley. Whaley was 2 under for the day until she went double bogey-triple bogey-bogey at Nos. 14-16 in closing with 76.
Barring unexpected circumstances, Lintz and Caron will be in the 2012 field at Clinton CC. Each has considered returning to the LPGA Tour, and Caron even has a medical exemption into the qualifying school finals in November after missing the second half of last season because persistent hip and shoulder problems.
Caron’s ailments still bother her if she hits too many balls, but she and Lintz said they are apt to remain in the teaching ranks because of a steady income and the LPGA Tour’s reduced number of events, especially for non-marquee players.
“I was joking with Jordan that we’re ahead of the curve,” said Caron, a four-time All-American and two-time member of a national championship team at Duke who missed 14 of 15 cuts last year largely because of her physical problems. “There are so few tournaments on the LPGA Tour, so I think eventually you’ll see a common trend of younger girls coming up and looking for teaching jobs, so I think we just kind of beat the curve. We’re trendsetters, but it’s unfortunate because the LPGA Tour is a good product.”
Lintz said she had got “burned out” by the grind of playing the Futures Tour in 2001-04, the LPGA Tour in 2005 and the developmental tour again in 2006-07. She played golf, basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball growing up in Rapid City, S.D., then after her second Futures Tour stint, she taught at the Stratton Golf School in Stratton Mountain, Vt., for three months a year and gave private lessons around the country for National Golf School in Tampa, Fla., her home base for her first eight years out of college.
“I love to compete, and that’s what I had lost in golf for awhile,” said Lintz, whose best finish on tour as Jordan Cherebetiu was a tie for fourth in a 2007 Futures event in Frisco, Calif. “I got a little frustrated and called it quits. It was a great experience, but I don’t know if I was completely mentally ready when I qualified for the tour. I really struggled having confidence and never really seemed to be able to get it going when I was out there."
Caron, who won the State Women’s Open in 2003-06 and finished second by a shot in 2009, said she also might play in the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Championship Aug. 20-24 at The Golf Club at Ballantyne in Charlotte, N.C., where a victory would earn a spot in the 2012 LPGA Championship. She also might play in a few Metropolitan (N.Y.) Section PGA assistants’ tournaments after finishing second by a shot to John Bushka in her first event in April. She and her husband plan to move to Jupiter, Fla., in mid-October, where he’ll play mini-tours and she might search for a teaching job.
Caron has several after-school activities to promote the game and tries to make it fun. She has conducted clinics and camps that have attracted five to 10 juniors as the program has grown to 50 members.
Natalie Sheary, who also grew up in West Hartford idolizing Liz at Wampanoag CC, did not defend because she was preparing to make her pro debut in the Futures Tour’s Ladies Titan Tire Challenge on Friday through Sunday in Marion, Iowa. She earned a full Futures Tour exemption for 2011 when she was medalist in the qualifying school last fall.
Sheary turns pro off a tie for eighth in the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship, her best finish in four years at Wake Forest, where she was named an honorable mention All-American for the third time in May. But her main goal is to earn her LPGA card for 2012 by finishing in the Top 10 on the Futures Tour money list. She missed the first four events so she plans to play in the remaining 12, including the ING New England Classic at Wintonbury Hills CC in Bloomfield on July 15-17.