BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A rain delay and fog delay might have an effect on some players as they prepare or continue through their round, but in the end, the strongest will come out on top.
Marta Sanz Barrio sure didn’t let those delays get in her way of winning it all.
With a finish that came down to the wire, Sanz Barrio walked away with a one-shot victory at the FireKeepers Casino Championship, finishing at 13-under-par.
While Sanz Barrio was having a day to remember, competition was a hole behind her the whole day in Augusta James who finished at 12-under-par. Sanz Barrio headed to the 18th with a two-shot lead and gave herself a little challenge she overhit her second shot behind the green.
After taking several different looks at her upcoming chip, Sanz Barrio flopped the perfect shot onto the green, but her ball stopped short of going in by a matter of inches. With a par inked on her final hole of the day, Sanz Barrio’s lead was locked in at 13-under, but James was right behind her with one hole left to go standing at 12-under.
James hit her second shot on 18 on the front of the green, with the pen nestled roughly 25 feet away in the back left corner. James needed to sink the long putt to force a playoff with Sanz Barrio, as it was down to just the two of them on the leaderboard at the end of the day.
With volunteers, fans, and players alike all waiting on James’ decisive putt, complete silence fell over the crowd. James’ putt was rolling with the perfect speed to the cup, and for a matter of seconds, it seemed like a playoff push was inevitable, but James’ putt inched just past the cup.
Having secured her second-place finish, James walked over to Sanz Barrio, and hugged the champion, and the two of them walked off the green, both of them champions in the hearts of the fans.
“I didn’t know the exact score or know how well Marta was playing in front of me,” said James. “I wanted my putt to get there, it was a long putt and I left myself with a bit of a tester for second place but I’m happy i got it there at least.”
A second-place finish at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship left James feeling pretty pleased with her performance this week.
“I didn’t have the results I wanted at the beginning of the year but I’m really happy with the way I’ve been playing over the last two weeks and especially today,” said James.
Fans also saw a familiar face out there caddying for Sanz Barrio throughout the day as it was her sister, Patricia Sanz Barrio, who was looping for the eventual champion.
“She played amazing, especially on the back nine it just felt like she made everything,” said Patricia. “It felt like every hole she had the chance to birdie from everywhere.”
For Patricia Sanz Barrio, she got to experience a different point of view while being on the golf course.
“It was really cool and she was really calm, we had so much fun out there it was a great experience to share with her,” said Patricia Sanz Barrio. “I always keep her cool.”
For Marta, she believed today would be a day her and her sister would never forget.
“I actually wished that she was playing, but to have her have her read my putts and calm me down, this is something we will remember for the rest of our lives,” said Marta Sanz Barrio.
With Marta Sanz Barrio crowned the champion on the day, Maia Schechter earned championship honors of her own with her victory as the Potawatomi Cup Champion. The Potawatomi Cup takes place during four events on the tour, taking place in South Bend, Harris, Battle Creek, and Milwaukee. Each player who plays in those four events is automatically registered to compete in the Potawatomi Cup. It’s a point-based system, and whoever finishes with the most points at the end of the fourth round will be the victor.
“It’s a really fun mini-series within the schedule itself,” said Schechter. “I won in South Bend, played well in Harris and Milwaukee, and today simply settled the score.”