The newly named 2015 ANA Inspiration—the first LPGA major tournament of the year—delivered challenges, frustration, exhilaration, relief, celebration and, yes, inspiration to the players who came to the Mission Hills Country Club over the last week.
For the winner, Brittany Lincicome of Florida, the final day of play brought her plenty of exhilaration and celebration after she persevered through sporadic wind storms, the challenging Mission Hills Country Club layout and the determined play of runner-up Stacy Lewis.
Lincicome, who had spent most of the tournament a few shots behind the leaders, exploded into a tie for the lead at the end of her final round with an eagle on the par-5 18th hole. It was repeat of the extraordinary display she put on in 2009, when she won her first Dinah Shore championship. Playing right in front of the leading pair, her score of 69 put the pressure squarely on Lewis. With a makeable birdie putt to claim the title outright, Lewis rolled her ball past the cup, setting up what became a three-hole mini-marathon playoff between these tour friends as darkness threatened to bring its own halt to the proceedings for the day.
Finally, on the third hole, Lewis faltered, and Lincicome closed out her win with a par.
“I mean, to make eagle on any hole is pretty incredible, and then to do it on Sunday at a major, at this major where I did it in 2009, it’s really surreal,” Lincicome said.
Lewis was congenial in defeat.
“We’re good friends,” Lewis told the media afterward. “I don’t think she’s won in a while, so it’s a great win for her. … If anything, I like seeing three American flags at the top of the leaderboard.”
Fellow American Morgan Pressel finished third.
As for pure inspiration: The low amateur for the week was California’s own Haley Moore, who won her spot with a victory last Monday in the Champions Junior Challenge on the Mission Hills Arnold Palmer course.
“When (tournament director) Gabe Codding asked me a week ago how I hope to be inspired, I’m like, ‘I really want to qualify,’” she said. “This whole past week, I’ve just been inspired by being here. The other amateurs are really good, and I was surprised to be the low amateur.”
Moore’s caddy for the four days of the ANA Inspiration competition was Lisa Stanley of Rancho Mirage, the 2012 Mission Hills Country Club women’s champion, as well as a fan.
“I volunteered to caddy for her. It was the first time I ever caddied, and it was awesome,” Stanley said. “It gave me goosebumps. It was super-fun.”
Stanley offered some personal observations about Moore, an aspiring tour pro. “Haley’s a good listener, and yet she makes her own decisions. We worked well together, and it was a very special experience for me.”
What was Moore’s most memorable moment of ANA Inspiration, other than some of the shots she played? “It was probably at the end of this final round as I was walking down along the grandstand to the bridge. Every one was so happy for me. If I’m here next year, they’ll know exactly who I am.”
Scroll down to see a photo gallery from the tournament.