Jaclyn Sweeney knows what it feels like to falter after leading a tournament in the final round.
On Sunday, the resident of Bradenton, Fla., proved she has what it takes to finish the job.
Sweeney rolled in a three-foot birdie putt on the par-3 18th hole to shoot a three-under-par 68 and a three-day total of 203 to win the Symetra Tour’s $100,000 Credit Union Challenge, presented by SEFCU, Sunmark and BFB Benefit, by one shot at Capital Hills at Albany.
Olivia Jordan-Higgins, of Jersey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom, was second with a 68-204.
Sweeney, a Boston native who was briefly a member of both the LPGA and women’s European tours, was the final-round leader in a Symetra Tour event in Iowa in June, but she struggled to an 81.
“I’ve been in this position before, in Iowa, and honestly, I blew it,” she said. “But this time, I talked to my parents and to my TaylorMade rep, and they told me to just play stupid. I didn’t want to know what everyone else was doing, and I tried not to look at the leaderboard.”
It was the first Symetra Tour victory for the 23-year-old Sweeney, who capped off the win with a brilliant 7–iron shot from 148 yards on the final hole.
“After I hit the shot, I wanted it to feel like a tap-in,” she said. “When I saw that I hit it near the pins and the gallery clapped, I put my putter in my hands and started to get into a zone. The putt was straight, and my dad told me not to be short, but not to rip it by.”
Sweeney’s father, Joe, has also been serving as her caddie.
“This feels pretty good to get my first win, because I knew what it feels like to shoot an 80 in the final round,” she said.
“But when I woke up in the hotel this morning, I saw that it was very windy, just like it was that final round in Iowa. It felt like déjà vu. I haven’t played that well in the wind. But I figured it was my time to step up.”
With the victory and the $15,000 first-place check, Sweeney, an Arizona State graduate whose best previous finish was a tie for seventh, moved up considerably on the Symetra Tour’s player of the year point list. The top 10 receive their LPGA Tour cards for next season
“I was something like 33rd on the list before today, and I knew I needed a win to move up. I don’t like Q [qualifying] school. I’ve been there three times, and I did earn my conditional card once. I just want to finish in the top 10 and get my card back,” she said.
“I enjoyed the European tour, and it was a great experience, but I want to play in the United States. It’s so nice to get that money off my back as far as my first win is concerned.”
Jordan-Higgins was upbeat after falling just one shot short of her first pro victory.
“I told myself to be patient today,” she said. “I had one of my best friends, Laura, on the bag. I haven’t been in this position before, and I told myself to try and relax. I was a little nervous, of course, but my friend kept me loose.
“It was a good birdie that she [Sweeney] made to win the tournament, and I’m not disappointed in my performance at all. I have a lot to learn, and this is only my second year out here. I think this was a good confidence boost for me. Now, I know what it feels like to be in this position. This is going to be in my memory bank the next time I’m in the final group.”
Nicole Hage, whose father was a former Amsterdam High School multiple-sport standout, finished with a 71-215.