FEDERAL WAY — Brush Prairie’s Lindsay Aho learned a lot about competing from Al Aldridge.
That might not ring with people outside Vancouver, but Aldridge was the hard-nosed, steely-nerved girls’ basketball coach at powerhouse Prairie High School where Aho was once a guard.
Now a professional golfer, Aho, 25, still carries some of those traits – determination, resolve and the will to win – to the course.
And she needed every one of them to finish off a victory at the 16th Northwest Women’s Open at Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club in Federal Way on Wednesday afternoon.
Staring at the likelihood of seeing her two-stroke lead disappear on the 17th hole, she instead holed out a 25-yard greenside bunker shot for birdie to sew up her first professional win – and $4,000 first-place check.
“Al was a really tough coach. Not many girls could handle him,” said Aho, who went on to become a two-time NAIA All-American at Concordia University in Portland.
“One thing he did teach us was how to win – and also how to stay in it. That has helped me a lot (in golf).”
Aho, a rookie on the Cactus Tour in Arizona, shot two identical scores to finish the tournament at 4-under 140 to win by three strokes. Jasi Acharya (70), of Columbus, Mont., finished second at 1-under 143.
Cheyenne Burbank (71), of Gilbert, Ariz., was third at 146. And Emily Childs (71), of Alameda, Calif., was fourth at 147.
In some ways, what transpired at the 17th hole – a long par 3 – was a bit of payback. Acharya birdied the first two holes on the final nine, and made crucial pars at the 14th (22-foot putt) and 15th (difficult two-putt on winding 40-footer) holes just to stay within striking distance.
Aho’s tee shot on the 17th leaked right toward a hazard, but kicked off a tree and landed instead in a right greenside bunker. Acharya, 29, hit her shot to the back of the green, giving her a good putt at birdie.
Then came Aho’s remarkable bunker shot, which landed in the middle of the green and tracked right into the hole.
“I didn’t think about making it, but I love hitting out of bunkers,” Aho said. “I thought I hit it a little fat, so I knew it was going to roll out. I saw it rolling and I wanted it to slow down. Then it dropped in.”
Standing on the back fringe in disbelief, all Acharya – a professional on the Symetra Tour (formerly the Futures Tour) – could do was shake her head before making her putt.
“She was like that all day … so I wondered, ‘Oh, when is my turn?'” Acharya said. “She made six birdies today. On this golf course, that is pretty good.”
The Northwest Open – which used to be the Eastside Women’s Open, then the Washington Women’s Open – was revived after a two-year hiatus. Professionals from up and down the West Coast, plus Japan, Scotland and Australia were in this year’s field.
It helped finding a determined tournament director (Twin Rivers professional Erin Szekely) and a solid sponsor (Pepsi) to put up a $20,000 purse to get it going again.