Granada Becomes Millionaire With 1st Win
Sunday, November 19th 2006, 3:05 pm
News On 6
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Shortly after Julieta Granada came to the United States at 14 to hone her golf game at David Leadbetter's academy in Florida, she grew concerned over how much money her family was spending. So she and her mother stopped renting cars, relying instead on a bicycle to get around town.
``We rode the bike around for a year,'' Granada said. ``We only rented cars for tournaments.''
Money no longer is a concern for the Granada clan, especially after Sunday.
Two days after turning 20, the LPGA Tour rookie from Paraguay got her first victory, taking home the first $1 million prize in women's golf. Granada shot a bogey-free round of 68, topping an 8-player final round field to win the ADT Championship at Trump International and claim most of the $1.55 million purse.
The win pushed her season's earnings to $1,633,586, not bad for someone who finished outside the top-10 finishers in 23 of 30 events this year.
``It's just been incredible, this whole week,'' Granada said. ``It was my birthday on Friday and today I was really happy just to be playing. I went out and played my game and it turned out to be the best today.''
Player of the year Lorena Ochoa (70) was 2nd, earning $100,000 and securing the top place on the season-ending money list. She finished with $2,592,872, about $300,000 shy of Annika Sorenstam's record total in 2002.
``I tried my best,'' Ochoa said. ``I have nothing to regret. It's been a great season and a great way to finish the year.''
Karrie Webb (71) was the only player who could have passed Ochoa in that department, needing a win to do so. But Webb went home with $20,500, meaning she and Granada were separated, essentially, by $326,500 per shot.
``Obviously, it was in the back of your mind all day,'' Webb said of the huge winner's share. ``Because of that, you knew it was in the back of everybody's mind.''
Only 32 women qualified for the event, where the field was trimmed to 16 after the 2nd round, then down to 8 for the final round, when the scores were wiped away and everyone teed off at even-par in an 18-hole shootout for $1 million.
Granada, the youngest of the 8 players Sunday, somehow never flinched. And even if the scores hadn't been wiped out, her 4-round total of 276 would have been 3 shots better than anyone else in the field.
``She played great today and she's a great little player, a good little fighter,'' Webb said. ``I'm not surprised to see her win, put it that way, and she just did it in the right week.''
Granada parred her first two holes, then birdied the par-5 3rd and never slipped, making 3 more birdies along the way, including 1 at the par-4 16th to put herself 3 shots clear of the field.
She was tested by a 5-footer to save par on the 17th, and when the ball dropped into the bottom of the cup both she and her caddy, her mother, Rosa, pumped their fists, knowing the win was only one hole away.
But there was drama awaiting.
Granada backed away from her second shot on the 18th fairway, distracted by the roar 2 holes away, where Ochoa had made birdie, giving her two in a row, to get within 1 of the rookie's lead.
Granada got her 5-iron approach, her mother, correctly, thought it was one club too much, on the green, but well behind the hole. Her first putt got to about 3 feet, and the par try was perfect, protecting her 1-shot lead.
And when Ochoa and Webb, Granada's two closest pursuers, each found the water with their tee balls at the par-3 17th, the outcome was all but sealed.
``It's something really, really neat for us,'' Rosa Granada said.
Il Mi Chung, who would have taken a 1-shot lead into the final round under typical one-cut circumstances, was in contention before making double-bogey on the 16th, missing the green left, then chipping back across the green to get into more trouble.
Chung finished at even-par, as did Natalie Gulbis, Mi Hyun Kim and Ai Miyazato, who led after the first 2 rounds but managed 16 pars, 1 bogey and a birdie on the way to a 72 Sunday.
Paula Creamer (75) had just 1 birdie, on 18, and was never a factor. Instead, the day belonged to the field's other 20-year-old, whose father is a greenskeeper in her hometown of Asuncion, Paraguay, and whose mother was a club player but never better than a 10-handicap.
She won the U.S. Girls' Junior title in 2004, turned pro in June 2005 and won last year's season-ending event on the Futures Tour, too, one where she closed with 4 straight birdies to claim $10,500.
Now, with this prize dwarfing that one, Granada's first order of offseason business is to buy a car.
``I'm so happy,'' Granada said. ``Really, I don't even know how much $1 million is.''