FALMOUTH, Maine — Sherri Turner of Phoenix turned a personal heartbreak into a personal triumph at Falmouth Country Club on Sunday.
Turner posted five birdies in the first 10 holes to pull away from the field in the inaugural LPGA Legends’ Hannaford Community Challenge. The LPGA Legends Tour is made up of former LPGA players who are now age 45 or older.
Turner gave some of the credit to her mother, Jeri, who died five weeks ago after suffering ill health for a while.
“As soon as that happened, I spent another week in South Carolina with my siblings,” she said, “and I came back to Phoenix and started working, working, working on my game and it paid off.”
Turner finished with a 5-under-par 67 for a two-day total of 6-under-par 138, four strokes ahead of runners-up Rosie Jones of Atlanta and Val Skinner of Bay Head, N.J.
Jones, one of three first-round leaders, birdied the 18th hole to record an even-par 72 for her 142, while Skinner survived a rocky start and finished with a second straight 71.
While Turner had jumped out to a big lead, making four birdies and shooting a 32 on the front nine, she never wanted to know where she stood against everyone else in the 40-player field.
She never looked at a leaderboard, even though they were hard to miss at various points around the course.
“I figured there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” she said, “and I wanted to stay calm. If I saw that somebody was within one or two strokes of me, it would probably make me nervous.”
As for the other two first-day leaders, Cindy Figg-Currier of Austin, Texas, shot a 75 to finish fourth at 145 and Lori West of Delmar, Fla., ran into a buzzsaw on the fourth hole and posted an 82 for 152 and a tie for 21st.
Figg-Currier bogeyed the first hole and double-bogeyed the second but played even-par golf from there. West suffered a quadruple-bogey 8 on the fourth hole and couldn’t regain her rhythm after that.
Among the big names that helped draw an estimated 3,000 fans over the two days were Nancy Lopez of Auburn, Ala., Jan Stephenson of Shelly Beach, New South Wales, Australia, and Pat Bradley of West Hyannisport, Mass.
Lopez shot an 82 Sunday for a 165 total and 38th place, Stephenson a 73 for 148 and Bradley improved a stroke for 77—155.
Turner collected a $30,000 paycheck for her efforts, and Jones, who won the tour opener in April, and Skinner each earned $12,625 for theirs.
All 40 former LPGA players and stars earned at least $3,020 from the $200,000 purse.
It was the first appearance in Maine of the LPGA or LPGA Legends tours and is the richest golf tournament ever held in the state.
Turner was never threatened after she made the turn at 5 under par and went to 7 under with birdies on 10 and 14. A bogey on 15 was merely a nuisance.
“After nine holes, I saw her at 4 under,” said Jones, who was playing in the group behind Turner and Skinner. “At the moment, I was 1 under and was making a couple mistakes out there and just not recovering from them.”
And it got worse for her.
“Then I saw she birdied 10, then I think she birdied 11 [actually Nos. 9 and 10],” said Jones. “Then it was pretty evident that every time I was looking at her she was putting for birdie.”
Skinner found it tough because as Turner was starting hot, Skinner went ice cold after she bogeyed Nos. 2 and 3 and double-bogeyed No. 4, but then she made birdies on 6, 7 and 9 to inch back into the competition.
“Whatever her game plan was,” said Skinner of Turner, “she put it together and pulled it off. … She came to win and she did it.
“It’s that simple, you know.”
Turner thinks her mother was with her the whole tournament, that her mother was in her ear when she went to the putting green before Saturday’s opening round.
“I could just hear my mom say, ‘Make some birdies and eagles for me,’” said Turner.
Turner’s dad was a golf pro, but “my mom was always there for support. She never played golf. She knew all about it, but she never played golf.”
Sunday, she may have helped her daughter win one.