Local pro ready to take on LPGA’s best | PostIndependent.com

Local pro ready to take on LPGA’s best

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The heavy rain pounding Maryland this week has done little to dampen Dede Cusimano’s spirits.

The LPGA pro at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale was all smiles Wednesday after completing an 18-hole practice round – with good reason. Today, she’ll tee it up in the LPGA Championship at Pete Dye-designed Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace.

The major appearance will be her sixth, but first since 2004. And it comes just one week shy of her 50th birthday.

“I’ve played in four LPGA Championships and two U.S. Opens. There’s nothing better than being out here playing with the best players in the world on such quality courses,” she said Wednesday. “There’s nothing better than doing something you love to do.”

Cusimano secured her spot in this week’s distinguished field with a dramatic victory at last July’s LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Southeast Section Championship in Boynton Beach, Fla. She drained a six-foot putt on the final hole to pull out a one-stroke victory.

In the months since, Cusimano has split time teaching at River Valley Ranch and the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt. In between, she has tried to find time to hit balls and hone her short game.

Inclement weather in the valley has exacerbated those efforts of late. And so has an untimely illness, one that shelved her for the last few weeks. She was forced to withdraw from late May’s Colorado Women’s Open, an event in which she finished third and fifth, respectively, in 2007 and 2008.

“I played so well in the Colorado Open the last three years … and it’s a great tournament to participate in to get ready for this,” Cusimano said. “Yeah it’s frustrating, but what can you do?

“I’m trying to get my health back. I’m still feeling tired and don’t quite have my strength back, but I’ve been trying to take it easy so I can get through these next few days.”

Bulle Rock will not be forgiving. Heavy rains – a half inch fell Tuesday and more is forecasted, Cusimano said – have softened fairways and thickened the rough.

Cusimano got her first look at the course Monday, when she played nine holes. After another nine Tuesday, she played 18 Wednesday – her first full round since falling ill.

“It’s playing extremely long,” Cusimano said. “The rough in spots is three inches, sometimes four – it’s brutal. … If you’re off a little bit and it runs into the rough, that’s a stroke right there. You’ve got to wedge it back into the fairway.

“I have to keep my head in it and stay patient.”

Persistence is one of Cusimano’s strong suits. She has continually subjected herself to the rigors of qualifying, through success and failure, all in the hope of making it back to a major tournament.

“I think it was a motivation to say, ‘Hey, you can still do it,” she said. “You might as well do it, Dede. You don’t have that many years left.’ I know I can still go out [and compete.]”

She has no visions of challenging for a title at Bulle Rock. Instead, Cusimano’s goal is more modest: To match her performance in 2003’s LPGA Championship at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del.

“If I make the cut, that would be the best birthday present I ever had,” she said with a chuckle.

Her pursuit is slated to begin this morning at 8:10 EST. Cusimano will be paired with 2001 Stanford University graduate Stephanie Loudon and South Korean Joo Mi Kim, who have amassed a total of nine top 10’s on the LPGA tour.

“I’ll have as much fun as I can and not put too much stress on myself,” Cusimano said. “When you’ve got all those people watching … there’s nothing more exciting than that, than being inside the ropes.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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