(Minnesota native and Michigan State star Sarah Burnham wins the 20th Connecticut Women's Open Championship)
As a golf professional, Sarah Burnham is batting a thousand.
In her first tournament as a pro, Burnham shot 69-68-137 (-7) to win the 20th Connecticut Women’s Open Championship at Innis Arden Golf Club by six shots over first-round leader Elsa Diaz. Burnham, a standout at Michigan State, was the only player in the field to better par on both Tuesday and Wednesday, when, thanks to difficult greens and especially lush rough, only seven rounds beat par. It was a leader board with little red, and the rough, from Burnham’s point of view, was the main culprit.
“If you were in the rough, you made bogey. I bogeyed the third after I hit my drive in the left rough. From that point on I just focused on hitting fairways.”
And making putts.
As Diaz, who shot 66 on Tuesday, began to falter—bogeying the par-3 4th and doubling the par-4 7th with a ball out of bounds—Burnham got hot. She birdied the par-5 5th, then three of the next four, to shoot (-2) 34 and take the lead for good.
Amateur Danielle Bambola, who briefly led after reaching -6 with a birdie on the 5th, bogeyed the 7th, 8th, 9th, and was not a factor again. Her 67-81-148, nevertheless, earned her low amateur honors by a shot over Innis Arden’s own Catherine McEvoy. Diaz, who slipped to 77 after 66 Tuesday, finished second overall at 143 (-1). Diaz and Burnham were the only players in the field of 78 under par. Four-time Women’s Open Champion Liz Janangelo Caron finished third with her second 73. Blloomfield, Connecticut native Nathalie Filler of the Philadelphia Cricket Club shot 74 for the second day in a row to finish fourth.
Though McEvoy, a teammate of Burnham’s at MSU, did not win low amateur honors, she had perhaps a more important role to play in this year’s championship.
“A week and a half ago Catherine came out to Michigan State and she said I should play in this,” said Burnham. “I called up my Dad and I said, ‘You think I could go?’ And he said yeah and I’m here.”
Her trip from the Midwest to the trophy presentation on Wednesday was smoothest during today’s final nine holes. As her playing companions struggled, she made it look effortless. “I figured if I could stay with my game, I had a good chance to win,” she said. Even in the couple instances when she missed fairways—finding bunkers with her tee shots on the 11th and 14th—she birdied. Her last birdie came at the par-3 18th when she holed a 20-foot uphill putt, but by then there as no doubt.
Burnham’s plans are to finish school—she’s got a semester left—and head to LPGA Q School in August.
“This definitely gives me confidence going forward,” said Burnham, who hopes to play on the Symetra Tour on the way to the LPGA. “I think I belong out there, and I definitely know I can hang with the pros,” she said.
Among other things, she now has a $4,000 check to prove it.