Illinois-based pro Harkins fires personal-best 64 to overtake CSU’s Prendergast and win CoBank Colorado Women’s Open and $50,000
by Gary Baines
A squall kicked up immediately after the conclusion of the awards ceremony for the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open on Friday afternoon.
Before that, it was Lexi Harkins of Crystal Lake, Ill., who took Green Valley Ranch Golf Club by storm.
The rookie pro, who started the day four strokes out of the lead, shot her personal-best round — a women’s course-record 8-under-par 64 — to overtake 18- and 36-hole leader Katrina Prendergast of Colorado State University and win the CWO title and the $50,000 first prize that goes with it.
“It almost feels not real right now,” the 22-year-old (left) said of her career round. “I started (playing) so long ago it doesn’t even feel real honestly.”
Harkins’ two-stroke victory denied Prendergast (below) of becoming just the second amateur to capture the overall championship at the Colorado Women’s Open. Paige Mackenzie (2006) remains the only amateur to pull off the feat.
“I can’t be mad about that,” said Prendergast, who will celebrate her 21st birthday on Sept. 9. “I was happy with the way I played. Maybe make a few more putts, but I still shot 2 under on the last day, which is pretty good. I can’t complain.”
Especially when someone cards a 64 to beat you. That was two shots better than any other score posted this week.
“I thought the pins were actually pretty hard today — harder than they’ve been all week,” said Prendergast, the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion with CSU teammate Ellen Secor. “Good for (Harkins). That’s pretty hard to do, especially on the last day.
“Yeah, it would have been nice to have gotten first, but second is just as good really. Going into (CSU’s) season with this second place, I’m really happy.”
Actually, amateurs have been in contention to win three of the last five Colorado Women’s Opens as Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster finished second in both 2014 and 2017.
And, just to be clear, even if Prendergast had claimed the overall title and Harkins had finished second on Friday, Harkins would have still won the $50,000 as the top prize available for amateurs is $750 worth of merchandise.
On Friday, Prendergast led by one with three holes left. But Harkins (left) drained a 45-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and a 33-footer on No. 18, while Prendergast missed the green at the par-3 17th and made bogey. On Harkins’ birdie on 18, playing partner Christine Meier had an almost identical putt, which gave Harkins a nice preview of what to expect.
“It was helpful seeing her line and seeing that it was a quick putt,” said Harkins, who went up by two when her ball dropped, with Prendergast still in the 18th fairway. “It happened to go in, which was crazy.”
For Harkins, the victory was a nice turnabout after she took a five-shot lead into the final round of the Michigan Women’s Open in late June and ended up finishing second after a final-round 77. On Friday, she had to come from behind and shot 13 shots better than on her final day in Michigan.
Harkins, a former University of Wisconsin golfer, finished with nine birdies and one bogey on Friday for her 64, which was one shot better than the previous women’s course record at GVR, set by Erin Houtsma in 2010. That gave Harkins, who was competing in the CWO for the first time, a 10-under-par 206 total, good for her first victory in more than four years.
“It kind of just clicked all at the same time” on Friday, she said of her stellar round. “I felt pretty confident because I’ve been playing well recently. And I had some learning experiences this summer — the Michigan Women’s Open, where I had the lead and lost it.
“I haven’t won in a long time. This is definitely my biggest win.”
And that $50,000 — the biggest first prize in a women’s state open — will certainly come in handy for a rookie pro who just advanced to Stage II of LPGA Q-school.
“This means so much to me just because playing professional golf is expensive,” she said. “I’m just starting and just went to Stage I for Q-school. All of it is very expensive. This will just go toward me playing golf and pursuing my dream.
“But I was trying not to worry about the money (during Friday’s round) honestly. I was trying to focus on my shot and not get ahead of myself because you never know what’s going to happen out there. But it feels so good to get it done.”
In finishing second, Prendergast (left) has been runner-up this month in both the Utah’s Women’s Open and the Colorado Women’s Open.
Prendergast, a Sparks, Nev., resident whose dad flew in to catch the final round, took a three-stroke lead into Friday and shot a 2-under-par 70, giving her an 8-under 208 total. That earned her low-amateur honors by six.
“That was the No. 1 goal (going into the week) and I achieved it. I’m happy,” Prendergast said.
Former University of Colorado golfer Esther Lee placed third at 211 after a bogey-free 67 in the final round. Brittany Fan, a former teammate of Lee’s at CU, tied for fourth at 213 with Sarah Hoffman of Saline, Mich., and Hannah Kim of Chula Vista, Calif.
Coming to play in the Colorado Women’s Open this week was no small matter to Lee (left) as she’s 35th on the season-long Symetra Tour money list, with the top 10 on that list at the end of the season earning LPGA Tour cards. There’s only six events remaining in the Symetra season, with one of the tournaments going on this weekend in South Dakota.
“I’ve always wanted to come play (the Colorado Women’s Open),” she said. “If I don’t make the decision to play now, I probably never will, so I decided to come.”
Lee certainly earned a nice payday on Friday — $11,300 for her individual showing and $1,550 as she and CGA executive director Ed Mate placed runner-up in the pro-am competition.
“It feels really nice,” she said of the performance. “I’ve always wanted to play this event when I was at CU, but it never lined up with my schedule. I finally got a chance to come out and play this year. To be up in the mix (in the individual and team competitions) feels really good.”
For the record, title sponor CoBank won the pro-am competition with a three-day total of 27-under-par 189, which was three better than Oakwood Homes No. 2 (Lee and Mate) and Massage Envy. The winning CoBank team was comprised of Lee’s former CU teammate Fan and amateur Tyler Etcheberry of Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Notable: Dan Scherer of OutFront Media on Friday was presented the Ralph Moore Golf Journalism Award. Scherer is the senior vice president of the Mountain Plains Region for OutFront Media. Moore covered golf — and other sports — for the Denver Post for nearly 30 years. He’s a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. … Four players who have made match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball finished in the top 15 of the Colorado Women’s Open on Friday. Prendergast (second place this week) and Secor (13th), of course, won the national women’s four-ball title this year. And Lee (third) and Fan (fourth) were the stroke-play co-medalists and went to the round of 16 in 2017, the year Prendergast and Secor also lost in the Sweet 16. … As was mentioned above, Prendergast took low-amateur honors on Friday by six strokes. Placing second in that competition was Aneta Abrahamova of Slovakia (214), while Secor (217) was third.
For scores from the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open, CLICK HERE.