THOMPSONVILLE – Liz Nagel of DeWitt has been coming to Crystal Mountain Resort for several years, first as a youngster watching and then for the last 10 years playing and often seeing fellow former Michigan State Spartans win.
The 26-year-old fourth-year professional and former Spartan dramatically joined the club Wednesday by shooting a 4-under 68 and coming from five shots behind to win by three in the 25th Michigan PGA Women’s Open Championship on the Mountain Ridge course.
“This means everything to me,” she said after accepting the $6,000 winner’s check and Crystal trophy. “This is my first professional win and to get it here means everything. It’s the perfect place to get that first pro win, and hopefully more will come after it.”
Nagel’s closing 68 gave her a 9-under 207. She started the day at 5-under and six off the lead of Lexi Harkins of Crystal Lake, Ill.
Harkins, a recent University of Wisconsin graduate, shot 77 to close and ended up in a three-way tie at 6-under 209 for second place with recent Michigan State graduate Sarah Burnham of Maple Grove, Minn., and Honolulu’s Marissa Chow, who each shot 72. It was Chow’s second consecutive year finishing second.
Hannah Wood of Highlands Ranch, Colo., shot 70 for 212 and fifth place, and Scotland’s Rachael Taylor, who now lives in Cary, N.C., shot 72 for 213. The low amateur in the tournament was current Michigan State player Yurika Tanida of Japan, who shot 73 for 218 and a tie for 17th.
Nagel, who has been on the LPGA as well as Symetra tours, is not a scoreboard watcher, and she was busy filling out a tax form to receive her check from the tournament in the scoring tent when the final group was on 18. She is due in the Cincinnati area for a Symetra Tour pro-am round at 8 a.m. Thursday, and she was preparing to depart before she was told she might be in a playoff.
“Then I was shocked when all of a sudden everybody is telling me I won,” she said. “I couldn’t help but cry and I’m not a crier. I’m just really happy about this. I’m bummed my parents were not here, but I already talked to my dad and it means a lot to me. It’s just wonderful. It means the world to me.”
Nagel said she did not look at the scoreboard at 17. She just knew she had some birdies coming in and she was trying to post as low a score as possible. She played the first six holes of the day 2-over, but made six birdies over the final 11 holes and three birdies in the last four holes including birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.
“It was done with my putting,” she said and credited her caddie and boyfriend, Paul Zanardo, with helping her read the greens.
“The greens were in the best shape I’ve ever seen them. It was tough out there. I focused on myself and finished birdie-birdie. I knew if I had a chance it was going to take a few more coming down the back nine. I still can’t believe I won by three. Getting up and down from the bunker at 18 for birdie is hard any time, but if I would have been thinking about winning or myself, it would have been 20 times harder. Turns out, it was one of the best up and downs of my life.”
Burnham, one of the trio in second, said there was tension in the final threesome of her, Harkins and Chow through the day.
“Honestly, I didn’t have my game today really, and I left a lot of putts out there and missed some greens,” she said. “It was a struggle. It was stressful for all three of us all the way around.”
Michigan State golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll played in the tournament and tied for 42nd. She coached Nagel, and the champion said it meant a lot that her coach was there to see her win.
“It’s great to see coach tear up,” she said, “especially after everything she had done for me. It means so much that all these Spartans are here. I’ve been inspired by Spartans coming here and I hope I inspired some of the younger ones today.”