By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
SYLVANIA — You might say Beatriz Recari has formed a bond with Highland Meadows Golf Club.
“Ever since I came and played this tournament in my rookie year, in 2010, I haven’t finished outside the top 10,” she said of her play in the LPGA’s Marathon Classic. “I always have a great feeling with Highland Meadows.”
That feeling reached its greatest intensity last July when she edged Paula Creamer by one stroke to claim her third career tour victory. The win came on a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, two holes after she had dropped in a key 30-footer.
“Last year was a great battle,” the 27-year-old Spaniard said Tuesday as the Marathon Classic hosted its annual media day at Highland Meadows. “Obviously, when you win you have to play your best, but last year was just a race to the end and it came down to the last putt.”
Recari said she thinks her success in the tournament has been a result of being comfortable on the course.
“I’m not the longest driver, so the fact that it’s not the longest course we play during the year is an advantage, and it’s very tight, so that definitely fits my game,” she said. “I’m really accurate. That’s why I think ever since I came here, I feel very comfortable. Obviously, when you have to play accurate, it separates you from the rest of the field as opposed to a course that’s wide open and you just hit the ball and it doesn’t matter. I think that’s definitely one reason.
“And the greens, for some reason, remind me of my hometown greens. I don’t know — it’s just something you’re feeling. Overall, I just feel very comfortable.”
Last year’s Marathon Classic win and a triumph at the Kia Classic keyed Recari’s best season on tour, as she finished eighth on the money list with $1,030,614. She also went 3-1-1 to help Europe win the Solheim Cup from the United States in Colorado.
Of course, when it came to the Solheim Cup success, winning in front of a partisan crowd on its home turf was nothing entirely new to Recari. She essentially did just that in her Marathon Classic triumph over Creamer, the extraordinarily popular American “Pink Panther.”
“I remember when I holed that putt on 16. I mean, it was a long putt, so it was something like, ‘Oh,'” she said, referring to the reaction from the gallery. “I couldn’t fault them for that. I have to be realistic. She’s American and she’s contending and, of course, they’re going to support her. That’s a fact. But I didn’t want to focus on that. I didn’t want to think that they were rooting against me. I wanted to think more like they were rooting for her. But you know, that’s OK. It happens. You just can’t let external factors affect you or it will drive you crazy.”
Actually, Recari said, the Marathon Classic is a tournament that she truly enjoys.
“I always think the crowds you get here without it being a major are amazing,” she said. “You feel that the entire town cares for the tournament and they come to support it and they want to watch you.
“And they know your name. When I came over (from Spain), especially in the first few years, whenever I went to tournaments, they didn’t know your name. I couldn’t understand it. And here, it was the first time I noticed: ‘Hey, Beatriz, can you sign?’ And I said, ‘Wow.’ It’s just great, and it goes to show you how much this tournament means to them. So, it’s great to be back.”
What would also be great for Recari is to get her game back on last year’s level. An injury-plagued 2014 has resulted in five missed cuts in nine events and spot No. 110 on the money list with $24,406.
“I haven’t been physically at my best,” she said. “I’ve had some injuries going on. … Obviously, when you come from such a strong year and you start this low, it’s definitely … a disappointment. But that’s happened, and all I care about is I’m healthy now and I’m on the right path and I can’t wait to play next week (in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, N.C.) and start my year going.”
This year’s Marathon Classic is set for July 17-20 at Highland Meadows. Tickets for the tournament are available online at http://marathonclassic.com/ticket-information/ or at Kroger stores throughout much of the region.