SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- Nicole Vandermade used a late surge to shoot a 4-under 68 to win the Four Winds Invitational by one stroke on Sunday at Blackthorn Golf Club. She finished at 12-under-par for the weekend, one shot better than Lee Lopez.
It was Vandermade’s first career Symetra Tour victory. She is the seventh first-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2014.
“I’m so grateful to everyone that has been supportive of me for the last two years and for my career.” explained the emotional Vandermade. “This means so much at the moment.”
Vandermade approached the 18th green with a two shot lead over Lopez. She taped in for bogey to secure the victory and was overcome with emotion.
“It definitely hasn’t been the easiest road to get here so I think it makes this moment even sweeter. I’m just going to enjoy this.”
Vandermade and Lopez were locked in a back-and-forth duel for much of the day. After Lopez took an early lead, Vandermade tied her for the lead at the turn. They both made birdie on the 10th and 11th holes to push the lead to 11-under.
The turning point of the event came at the reachable par-5 16th. Vandermade was close in two shots and taped in for an eagle to move to 13-under-par. Lopez made birdie to stay within striking distance. The Brantford, Ontario native made par on the 17th hole while Lopez made bogey to extend the lead to two shots with one hole to play.
“On 16, I knew that it was my moment to be aggressive and I hit a good one.”
“On 17, I just missed the green and then chipped it really close to within a few inches so that was nice to have an easy par. On 18, I drove it in the rough and I just told myself to hit it up there near the green. Unfortunately, I didn’t make my par putt but I didn’t need to.”
Vandermade ranked 90th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list entering the 12th event of the year. The winner’s check of $22,500 moved her to eighth. She is now inside the top-10 and in position to get her LPGA Tour card for the 2015 season with eight events remaining.
“Obviously, that means a lot. There are still a lot of tournaments to go but it definitely means a lot to be inside the top-10.”
Vandermade credited her college teammate and fellow Symetra Tour player Desiree Dubreuil, who was her caddie on Sunday.
“I was just chatting with my old teammate Dez so she kept me calm. We were just hanging out all day. She was just really calm and that just kept me really calm.”
Vandermade is the second straight former Texas Longhorns golfer to win on the Symetra Tour. Last week, Madison Pressel won the Decatur-Forsyth Classic.
“Texas is known for its pride so this is definitely a huge moment. I know it was a huge moment for her (Madison) and it is a big moment for me too. It’s nice that we can share it together.”
Lopez, who held a one stroke lead entering Sunday, got off to a blistering start with birdies on three of the first five holes to assume a three shot lead on the field. She faltered late on the front nine with a bogey on the seventh and a double bogey on the eighth hole.
The Symetra Tour rookie held firm on the back nine and fell just one stroke short.
With her 11-under-par second place finish, she moved from 25th to seventh on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. She leads all Tour rookies with a $27,684 in earnings.