It's Nam ... by a bunch

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

She had an experienced challenger chasing her down from behind, took a two-stroke penalty on No. 10 that wiped out her lead and a three-putt bogey on No. 11 that left her two strokes down with seven holes to play.

That's usually enough to send most 18-year-old girls into collapse mode, let alone most 18-year-old girls playing in the final group of their very first Edmonton Ladies Amateur championship.

Susan Nam, however, isn't most 18-year-old girls.

So, with the biggest tournament of her young career slipping away in the sweltering heat, and TV cameras waiting on every green to capture the rookie meltdown, she responded like this: Par, birdie, birdie, par, eagle, par, par.

Game over.

There's a new kid on the block.

"My uncle (and caddy) kept saying 'relax, you don't need to win, just enjoy,' " said Nam, whose 74-71-145 at the par 73 Highlands gave her a five- shot victory over Christina Lecuyer, 76-74-150.

"And I kept praying after each hole," she said.

Nam, moving up from the junior ranks, where she's the defending Edmonton and Alberta champion, showed she could be a force on the ladies' scene for years to come.

Take away the two-stroke penalty for fixing a ball mark on the fringe (illegal unless you're on the green), and she closes the tournament with a 69.

A LITTLE BIT ANGRY

"I was a little bit angry after that," she said. "But I drained the putt from the fringe and came back to my game. My putting was really good today."

Lecuyer, who started the day two shots back of Nam, shot a front nine 34 to cut the lead to one. Then, after Nam's penalty on 10 and bogey on 11, she had a two-stroke lead with seven holes to go and seemed very much in command.

But while Nam started knocking down pins and rolling in birdies, Lecuyer putted herself out of contention, three-jacking her 12th and 13th holes for bogey.

"Frustrating," said Lecuyer. "I played good on the front, I had three birdies and an eagle, I was doing well, I just couldn't get enough putts to roll on the back and she played great."

Up by two strokes, Nam ended it by rolling in a 15-foot eagle putt on her 16th hole (the short par-4 seventh, as they switched the nines for the event).

Lecuyer parred and still dropped two strokes.

GOING FOR IT

That forced Lecuyer to go for it in two on the par-five 8th, a shot that ended up in the greenside water. After that, the last hole was just a victory march.

"I just wanted to do my best, play my own score," said Nam. "Their score doesn't mean anything to me. But on the 17th I had a feeling I might win this."

It's been a quick and impressive ascent for the five-foot-five Nam, who never touched a golf club until her family moved to Canada from Korea five years ago.

"I used to play a lot of sports in Korea, but once I started golf I just concentrated on golf," she said, adding Se-Ri Pak and the growing legion of Korean women on the LPGA Tour are her new role models.

"I'm trying hard to get there."

She started out with a $50 set of clubs from a pawnshop when she was 13, was breaking 80 two years later and is now on a full ride scholarship to Florida International University in Miami.

Her tireless work ethic is already the stuff of legend in Edmonton. Normally she would have left the winner's circle yesterday and gone straight to the range.

"Usually, but I have English and physics diploma exams, so I have to catch up on my school work," she said. "But I usually go and practise to be ready for the next tournament. It's not the end, I have tons of more tournaments.

"This is a good accomplishment, for now."


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