Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Kim weathers obstacles for Farr playoff victory

It was the best and worst of times as the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic presented by Kroger turbulently wound its way to a dramatic conclusion.

South Korean golfer Mi Hyun Kim made a late comeback to tie Natalie Gulbis for the lead, then won three holes into a sudden-death playoff yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Course under hot, steamy conditions in Sylvania.

The fact that overtime was needed to determine a victor was a fitting end to a tumultuous week in which the 22nd annual tournament needed plenty of extra work to finish at all, let alone on time.

"You could have taken the first 21 years, any problem that we had along the way, add them all up, and they probably wouldn't have come near the ups and downs we've had this week," said tournament director Judd Silverman. He offered high praise for the people who helped salvage a successful event.

The best was ultimately represented by the 29-year-old Kim, who sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole (on 18th green) and then won her seventh career LPGA title when the 23-year-old Gulbis, bidding for her first tour victory, missed a birdie putt from half that distance.

The tournament was highlighted by a star-filled field. It included the world's top player, eight-time LPGA Player of the Year Annika Sorenstam, who finished in eighth place at 9-under par.

A surprise but much-welcomed entry was LPGA Hall-of-Famer and fan favorite Nancy Lopez, 49, who missed the cut while playing her first tour event in 14 months.

And then there was the most successful player in the history of the tournament, four-time champion Se Ri Pak. She made a run at a fifth title before settling for fourth place at 16-under.

Pak won this event in 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2003 and has placed in the top seven spots in eight of her 10 appearances at Highland Meadows.

With $59,570 in winnings added yesterday, Pak has now collected $800,073 in prize money at this tournament alone.

Beyond that, the true heroes of this year's tournament may have been Highland Meadows course superintendent Mark Mixdorf and his grounds crew. They turned a nearly impossible-to-play course, deluged by two Friday afternoon rainstorms, into one suited to finish all four rounds basically on time.

Countless gallons of water were pumped away from trouble areas all around the course, players were carted through knee-deep water between several greens and tees, and even a makeshift bridge was erected to aid in the movement of players.

"Obviously we had a lot of rain," Mr. Mixdorf said. "It was a big challenge, and the credit goes to our outstanding staff, which just worked endless hours to try to make sure we got in 72 holes in a reasonable timeframe. I think we've done that.''

Including yesterday, first aid staff on hand reported that around two dozen spectators were taken to area hospitals after being treated on the grounds for heat-related difficulties. Those officials said, however, that the number of medical problems was fairly typical compared to previous tournaments here.

Kim, admittedly made weary by the heat, had enough energy left to survive the playoff.

"There was a lot of rain here, but the staff worked so good that we didn't have any problems with the play," she said. "The volunteers were taking care of me and every player, so we didn't have any trouble with that. I'm happy with the [cart] rides, hole by hole, so there was not a problem with the weather."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.

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