Date: February 10, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

#VicOpen finish reignites Kemp’s season


For the bulk of Saturday afternoon, Sarah Kemp was outside the third-round cut line and contemplating a budget-conscious trip to Adelaide.

She might now consider finding Teresa Lu and buying her a cider.

Lu made a late triple-bogey in high winds on Saturday that brought Kemp back into the Sunday field – a seemingly incidental gift that might well change the New South Welshwoman’s life.

That still didn’t appear the case when Kemp’s wayward drive up the first hole of her final round found an unplayable lie, the forerunner to a double-bogey that dropped her to three over in total.

At that point, she was 13 strokes behind overnight leader Kim Kaufman, who was yet to tee off.

Four short hours later, when she calmly rolled in a 3m birdie putt on the 18th green, Kemp had signed for a stupendous seven-under-par 65 – equal to Karrie Webb’s course record set two days earlier and her career’s equal second best LPGA Tour round.

At that point in the clubhouse at six under, she still trailed Kaufman by five after the American birdied her first hole to reach 11 under. Yet she was visibly excited when told she was now in the running to earn a cheque in the $30,000 range provided there were no other charges.

Given her previous best career prize was (approximately) $53,000, earnt last year in an LET event in Morocco, this was nothing to sneeze at for the 33-year-old who last year could maintain only very limited LPGA Tour status and had been plotting an equally limited schedule in 2019.

But then, as the leaders began to falter ahead, and with Kemp having left the course precinct to celebrate with a quiet cider with her mates, she began to climb the leaderboard – and switch to water.

For a while she was within one stroke of the lead until eventual champ Celine Boutier birdied the 15th hole to re-establish the two-stroke buffer she held to the tape.

But her share of second place, and the (approximately) $109,000 cheque she’ll bank as a result, was more than she could possibly have dreamed.

Kemp hadn’t had a top-20 finish on the LPGA Tour since May 2015, when T16 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, and had been considering the very real possibility of playing less than a handful of events this year.

“It’s unbelievable, it was a crazy day,” Kemp said.

“I pulled my tee shot off the first and ended up making a double-bogey … but I pulled it together really nicely and just stayed patient.

“I don’t think I made a birdie until the fourth (but) I got to that point where I couldn’t remember how many birdies I made … but it just all came together.

“It was one of those days where I almost can’t remember what happened. It all just happened so fast and everything was going to plan. So I just tried to stay patient and I knew I was having a good score at the end and got a little nervous coming down the 18th but it all worked out.”

Her streak of five birdies in succession from the fourth returned her to red figures, but it was the last four on the back nine that could reshape her season and career after making just four cuts in her 19 previous LPGA Tour events.

“I’m still on cloud nine, and it is potentially going to change my year,” Kemp said.

“This week was a big week for my LPGA status so to finish this way is pretty huge.

“With my status on the LPGA this year, I didn’t go to Q-school at the end of last year and I should have, but I took the gamble and with the current status I have, these two weeks with the Australian Open next week were kind of like a Q-school for me so to finish of like this will change my year drastically.

“It is tough to say right now but I am going to get a lot more LPGA events. Before this week I was looking at maybe three, but this might turn into 13-15, I’m not sure, so it depends on what happens next week (in Adelaide).

“But it has definitely changed my year so I am going to have to start looking at a different schedule to what I had planned, which is a great problem to have.”