By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
SYLVANIA — While 17-year-old Lydia Ko added onto her amazing rookie season on the LPGA Tour with her win in the Marathon Classic on Sunday, other young players introduced themselves quite heartily to the large gathering of fans at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Perhaps none did so more effectively than 20-year-old Malaysian rookie Kelly Tan.
Tan’s final-round 67 included a string of three consecutive birdies on the back nine and landed her in a tie for fourth place at 11-under par 273.
“I’m super happy with the way I finished — my best finish for the whole year,” said Tan, whose previous best was a tie for 19th.
Her only real drawback of the round was a bogey 6 on No. 18, the second of back-to-back par-5 holes to complete the circuit. But she wasn’t going to let that spoil an otherwise outstanding week for her.
“Of course, it’s not as pretty a finish as I wanted, but I played great all week,” Tan, the world’s 402nd ranked player, said. “I struck the ball the best since I started the season and I’m starting to putt better. I gave myself a lot of chances and just kept rolling them in.”
For 22-year-old Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham, a final-round 68 put her in a tie for 12th at 275. The world’s 244th-ranked player recorded her best finish of a season in which she went through a stretch of seven missed cuts.
“I just had a rough stretch this year, and mentally I was struggling,” she said. “But I think I worked on that a lot, mentally, and that helped my physical game. I’ve just been hitting it better and, overall, just feeling better with my game, and it’s that confidence that kind of helped me play well this week.”
Lee-Bentham said she needed a kick-start to her confidence even before she started playing well.
“I was just telling myself I’m here for a reason,” she said. “I think I was so down on myself that I almost felt like I shouldn’t have been on tour. I think just the support I had from friends and family is what helped me get back on track.”
While several relatively unknown players left Highland Meadows happy, two crowd favorites walked away disappointed.
Toledo native Stacy Lewis, the world’s top-ranked player and the tour’s leading money winner, continued a long string of not turning in top performances at Highland Meadows.
“There are just some golf courses you never seem to figure out,” she said after she ended up in a tie for 25th at 278.
“I don’t know if this is one of them or what it is. But over the years I’ve just never really got going on this course. I’ve never made a lot of birdies, so I don’t know what the deal is.”
When a golfer’s highlight of a week is winning a footrace, you know it’s been a struggle. Such was the case for Paula Creamer, whose total of 285 put in her tie for 66th and extended a string of troubles in Sylvania since her victory in 2008.
“Oh, gosh. I just did not play well. I was just struggling. The only thing I did well was the race on that par 3,” she said, referring to outrunning Angela Stanford and Lexie Thompson on No. 14, the tournament’s designated “party hole.” “Other than that … it’s not saying much. But I enjoy coming to this tournament. I always have. I either play awesome here or I don’t. I don’t quite understand the results here the past couple of years, but I definitely need to work on some things going into next week.”
Creamer will be part of the United States team in the International Crown competition in Owings Mills, Maryland, this week.