DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Beatriz Recari has ridden with Mario Andretti in an IndyCar going 200 mph and witnessed the Running of the Bulls in her hometown of Pamplona.
Standing over a 2-foot par putt on the 18th hole the Spaniard needed to make for her first career LPGA Tour victory seemed easy in comparison.
The 23-year-old tour rookie rebounded from a late bogey and made the short putt for a 2-under 70 and a one-stroke victory over France’s Gwladys Nocera in the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge on Sunday.
Recari, who had made the cuts in only three of her first 13 stroke-play events this season, immediately jumped into the arms of her caddie to celebrate.
“I’m thrilled,” Recari said while clutching a large bouquet of flowers. “I’m very proud of how I handled myself out there. I did not allow the nerves or (look) any further than what I had to do right in front of me.”
Recari finished at 14 under on the Blackhawk Country Club course.
The breakthrough win ended a 14-month world victory drought for Recari, who nearly tripled her career winnings with the $165,000 first-place prize.
She credited a trip around Homestead Miami Speedway on Oct. 2 with Andretti for helping her stay calm before the winning putt on 18.
“That was a great experience because I had some much adrenaline, and then I just felt so calm when I was standing on the putt,” Recari said. “That was fun for me … but this is my job and I still have to keep it fun and focused.”
Before holding off Nocera, Recari’s last professional came on the Ladies European Tour at the Finnair Masters in August 2009 when she blew a five-stroke lead on the final day before winning in a playoff.
“She did a really great job,” said Michele Redman, who played with Recari in the final group and tied for third at 12 under. “She played it smart, she got some good breaks and she hit a lot of really good putts.”
Nocera birdied the final hole for a 70.
Redman (76) and Karine Icher (70) tied for third at 12 under.
Cristie Kerr missed a chance to overtake Ai Miyazato for the No. 1 ranking, closing with a 70 to tie for fifth with Wendy Ward (72) at 11 under. Kerr needed to at least tie for third to take the top spot.
“I figured if I could have another low round, I could manage to do it,” Kerr said. “But the weather conditions were a lot tougher today and I didn’t quite hit it good enough to get it done. Top five, hitting it the way I did this week, I think is a victory.”
The weather affected the final round and made it tough to gain ground after the tournament began in 95-degree heat Thursday.
The leaders found that out the hard way.
The 45-year-old Redman, seeking her first win since 2000, went into the final round tied with Recari and Ilhee Lee but couldn’t hold on.
After falling a stroke behind when Recardi birdied No. 6, Redman pulled even with a birdie on the ninth but fell behind again after pushing her tee shot right on the par-3, 10th. The ball settled in thick, wet rough and Redman’s chip shot fell 3 feet shy of the green. She settled for bogey.
“It was definitely tougher,” Redman said. “You’re having to hit more club because it’s colder out there.”
Lee, a rookie from South Korea who nearly quit the tour this year after missing seven straight cuts, bogeyed three of the first four holes Sunday and fell off the pace with a 78. Lee tied for 15th at 6 under.
Recari had her problems, too.
She birdied the third but gave the stroke back two holes later with a bogey on the par-5 fifth. A birdie on the sixth put her in front again and she added birdies on Nos. 13 and 14.
Recari’s bogey on 17 coupled with Nocera’s birdie on the 18th cut the lead to one. With Nocera standing close by, Recari avoided a playoff by two-putting from just off the front of the green.
The celebration with her caddie and friends didn’t last too long, though. Recari had a late night flight for Malaysia for the Sime Darby LPGA, where she’ll attempt to become only the second player on tour this season to win back-to-back events.
Brittany Lincicome, the first-round leader after a course-record 61, shot a 70 to tie for eighth at 9 under.