Marilyn Lovander, 49, didn't play golf until age 19. She began to take the game seriously at 24 and finally turned professional at 30.
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Whitworth, Lopez, Sheehan, Sorenstam . . . Lovander.
Folks around the 18th green at yesterday's third round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic were still trying to figure out how to pronounce Marilyn Lovander's last name as she was making her final approach of the day.
For the record, it is LOW-van-der, and the unheralded 49-year-old LPGA late bloomer enters today's final round in second place at 5-under-par for the tournament, three shots behind leader Karen Stupples.
"It's kind of nice," Lovander said of her prime position. "You just never give up out here. I've been improving every year, so I'm still playing.
"My putting was good today. I can't complain about it at all. I missed a couple of them coming in, but I made more than I missed."
In case you're sitting at home in your late 20s and thinking you once had game, have got game, or are still working on getting game, maybe it's not too late.
Lovander - a native of Willmar, Minn., who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. - get this, never even played golf until she was 19.
She started to take it seriously at age 24, finally turning professional at 30.
"I guess that's kind of late considering that some of the kids out here are not only young enough to be my daughter, but they're encroaching on being granddaughter age," said Lovander, who took a chance and gave pro golf a shot at an age when many LPGA players are reaching their prime.
"The only way you're going to find out [if you're good enough] is to test yourself against these women. I'll tell you what, they're tough. It's no piece of cake to come out here and play. You see it time and time again where younger kids will come out here and think, 'Well, all I have to worry about is the top five.' There isn't a single woman out here that isn't capable of winning a tournament."
If you've never heard of Lovander, that's understandable.
Through 166 career LPGA tournaments, her best finish was a tie for 10th in 2000 at the State Farm Rail Classic, the first year she made more than $25,000 ($40,352) on the LPGA tour.
Without sponsorship to get started, Lovander did it the hard way when she turned pro.
"Visa and Mastercard," she said of financing her early travel, lodging, and equipment expenses. "That's basically how I did it.
"When I first went out and played on the Futures tour, there were some guys at my club that gave me a little cash to get started. That was it. I've been making enough to survive on every year."
Last year was her best year on the LPGA circuit with earnings of $64,358 in 21 events, but golf's version of Roy Hobbs hasn't exactly starved in the last decade.
Playing on the Futures Tour in the mid-1990s, golf's minor leagues, she became that circuit's top career money-winner at $204,219.
When she turned 45, Lovander became eligible to play in the handful of annual Women's Senior Golf Tour events, and has picked up another $208,350 there, including a win at last year's WSGT Hy-Vee Classic.
On the LPGA Tour this year, Lovander has missed 10 of 15 cuts and, with a season-best tie for 18th, has earned just $18,175 from the LPGA, bringing her modest career total to $273,956.
Before turning pro, Lovander made her living as a restaurant manager and later by working at a golf club.
None of that will matter today when she tees it up in the final pairing with Stupples at 2 p.m.
You never know when opportunity might come knocking, and Lovander welcomes the chance today to become the oldest player ever to win an LPGA event.
After an inauspicious opening round of 1-over 72 here on Thursday, Lovander's bid at starring in a Cinderella story began after the turn of Friday's second round, a point where she was just hoping to make the cut.
She birdied Nos. 10 and 11, and suddenly destiny began to swing in her favor.
Lovander added birdies on 13, 16, and 17 to complete a second-round low score of 4-under 67, and found herself in the Farr Classic hunt.
Two lucky bounces yesterday on Nos. 6 and 8 led to birdies. She also had a birdie on No. 7 and another on 11, which took her to minus-7. Only bogeys on 16 and 17 prevented her from staying within a shot of Stupples' first-place 8-under through 54 holes.
Did nerves and the weight of her sudden thrust into the spotlight cause the late swoon?
"No, that's just my golf game," Lovander said. "You just never know when it's going to happen. My ball was sitting in a little bit of a hole on 17 and I never really made up my mind what I was going to do with it before I swung at it, and it didn't come out the way it should have.
"Nerves were more of a factor at the beginning of the day than at the end, and that's always the way it is for me.
"It's never clear sailing after that, but you kind of get into your routine and your focus is a little better."
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.
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