What a difference a year makes
By STEVE SPINKS
LAST year Victorian Melanie Holmes-Smith played a round of golf at the $15,000 Optus World/Ericsson Coraki Ladies Pro-Am that she would rather forget.
However, the affable 23-year-old turned that around yesterday to win her first tournament of the year.
Holmes-Smith crept under everyone's radar to win the second Coraki Pro-Am with a four-under par 69.
Equal-second was defending champion, Mullumbimby's Nikki James, and West Australia's Dana Lacey with a two-under par 71.
"I'm very happy," Holmes-Smith said.
"It's a lot of fun to play here and all I was thinking was that I wanted to play better than last year.
"I played like a dog last year, I hit an 81 or 82 ... I just wanted to beat last year's score and I would've been happy."
Beat it she did and on the way defeated some big names in the sport, including US Tour player Lorraine Lambert.
Holmes-Smith was in the last group to tee off.
She was two-under after nine holes and equal with James and Lacey who were both already in the clubhouse.
There were some thoughts that the event may have to be decided by a play-off yet again.
Last year, James won the inaugural pro-am in fading light, defeating another Victorian Lindsay Wright.
However, Holmes-Smith made sure the result was well and truly settled when she returned her scorecard by clawing two strokes in front during the back nine.
Holmes-Smith calls Cobram and Melbourne home while she is in Australia and she turned professional in August 2003.
Last year she spent the second-half of the season on the US Futures Tour where she finished 73rd on the money list.
"I finished 35th on the stroke average which was a good sign," Holmes-Smith said.
She is heading back to the US in April and is hoping to improve her position.
"If you finish in the top five you get a full card on the LPGA tour," Holmes-Smith said.
Angela Harris and Geraldine Brown finished equal fourth with one-under par 72.
Vice-president of the Coraki Golf Club, Peter Cordery, was ecstatic with how the day went.
"Everything went to plan," he said.
"There were several hundred spectators during the day and it was a bigger crowd than last year.
"The conditions were better for playing as it wasn't as hot as last year."
Cordery said the Coraki Club had every chance of hosting the event again next year.