Swell Gal Wins KIA Classic
By Conor Nagle under LPGA

And the lava lamp goes to...

Germany’s Sandra Gal outlasted heavy favourite Jiyai Shin at the LPGA’s Kia Classic yesterday to secure her maiden professional victory and a winner’s cheque for $225,000.

Shin and Gal found themselves dueling for the lead over the course of the back nine, with the former struggling to recapture the sort of form on the greens that saw her card a 64 on the second day. The pair were inseparable right up until the final green, where Shin, in a tragic variation on the day’s theme, failed to convert a four-footer for birdie. Endearing though her giggles and stop-start approach to that failed putt may have been, she was ultimately left helpless as Gal’s own effort, from a little over two feet, found the bottom of the hole.

It was a gutsy performance from the German, who had to overcome both her own nerves and the (largely polite) hostility of an entire gallery. That she did so in such dramatic fashion, nearly holing her final approach shot of the day (a choked-down sand wedge from 83 yards, for the geeks among you), bodes well for her future.

Though the generous purse, strong field, low ticket prices and location in a largely Asian neighbourhood went a long way towards making the week a success, an abysmal composite layout did its best to make the viewing experience a tough one. Queues formed at various bottlenecks around the course, of which the short par-four tenth proved the most severe. Already the subject of an amusing profile by Geoff Shackleford earlier in the week, he returned on Sunday to witness the carnage:

“Things got off to a rocky start as I insisted on the enhanced interrogation technique of watching golf on the Zaharias course’s short par-4 ninth… and as expected, the scenes of four group back-ups, its own rules official and in general, the same misery for the ladies that this sliver of land masquerading as a golf hole produces for the bold and brave daily fee players.

Playing as the tenth hole, the hole features OB left and a hill right, with the dogleg protected by cart path and a tree, rendering the effective landing area to about 10 yards. Throw a small river running down the hill as a result of overnight showers and the rules official spent the day giving rulings that at one point had four groups on the tee (just two when I finally ventured down there).

“It’s not good news,” the official said into her walkie-talkie during one of her return trips to the perch where as soon as she parked her cart, another ruling seemingly was in order.”

Play was so slow over the course of the week that the LPGA even intervened and awarded rookie Shasta Averyhardt a two-shot penalty. How bad things would have to get before the PGA Tour made a similar intervention is anyone’s guess.