Christine Song channeled a little Mina Harigae en route to her first professional victory Sunday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course.
Harigae won the 2009 Duramed Futures Tour Ladies Titan Tire Challenge at age 19 by a whopping 10 strokes.
Song, one week shy of her 19th birthday, fired a 5-under par 67 in the final round of this year’s tournament and cruised to a six-stroke win.
“I look up to (Harigae) because when we played junior golf, she was always up toward the top,” said Song, who tied for third in last year’s event, 11 strokes behind the winner. “She breathes this aura into me.”
After playing the front nine holes in 1-under that kept her in a tie with co-leader Jodi Ewart, Song had the aura, the beat and the mojo on the back nine holes. She birdied 10 and 13, the latter after a beautiful approach from about 150 yards left her three feet from the pin, and got pars on the next three holes. She held a four-stroke lead heading to the par-5 No. 17, a catastrophe-laden hole that features a water hazard on the left and tall grass on the right.
Song admitted that a peek at the leader board on the way to 17 put some thoughts into her head.
“I was thinking thoughts now,” Song said. “I knew 17 was a tough hole, so I was like, ‘Just don’t hit it into the hazard.’ ”
She avoided the hazard and found herself just beyond the green after her third shot. She drained a 30-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie that put the tournament in her hip pocket. Song put an exclamation point on the win by chipping in for birdie from 35 yards out on No. 18.
“It feels really good,” Song said of her sixth top-five finish in 24 career Duramed Tour tournaments. Her previous high finish was a second at the 2009 Louisiana Pelican Classic.
The chip on 18 gave Song low round of the day and tournament, and earned her a pair of sunglasses.
More significant was the $15,400 first-prize check that boosted her into third place on the Duramed Tour money list with $31,469 in seven events.
The top five on the money list at season’s end earn exempt status on the LPGA Tour next season and that’s where Harigae, who finished first on the 2009 money list, is now playing.
Song, who was eighth on last year’s Duramed Tour money list with $35,130, said a top-five finish this year means she probably won’t be back to defend her title.
“I hope I don’t have to, but if I do I have confidence that I will play well again,” she said.
Ewart was co-leader after each of the first two rounds, but fell apart on the back nine in the final round with four bogeys. She finished eight shots back, in a five-way tie for fifth at 3-under.
“I was not nervous, I just hit some terrible shots on the back nine and I didn’t putt as well as I had the rest of the week,” said Ewart, who was playing her first tournament as a pro after graduating from the University of New Mexico last month. She earned $3,132. Ewart played with Song in the second and final rounds.
“She’s a great player,” Ewart said. “I’ve never played with such a steady player before. She holes everything from within 10 feet and her long game is really incredible. She can get on the green from anywhere on the golf course.
“I recognized that yesterday when she was making putts when she needed to. It’s really frustrating to play against.”
Whitney Wade eagled No. 18 en route to a 68 and finished in a three-way tie for second with Mo Martin and Hannah Jun. They collected $8,152 apiece.
Michaela Cavener, who played in the last group with Song and Ewart, ballooned to a 5-over 77 to finish at even par and in a tie for 10th place.
It was her best finish as a pro.
– Mike Koolbeck, correspondent