A homecoming for Tamulis at Tour Championship
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) A year ago at this time, Kris Tamulis went home.
This year, she's home again.
And she's much happier now.
She was a first-time winner on the LPGA Tour this season - it took her 11 years and 186 starts to get that elusive first victory - and now she gets to end the season in Naples, the southwest Florida town where she grew up, went to high school and embarked on her golfing way.
Tamulis tees off Thursday morning in the CME Group Tour Championship for the first time, playing next to Sweden's Pernilla Lindberg - who has an infectious positive attitude that Tamulis raves about - and Paraguay's Julieta Granada. It'll be Tamulis' first time playing competitively in Naples since 1999, her last year of high school.
''I know everybody is cheering for me,'' Tamulis said. ''At the same time that doesn't lead into made putts. I know that I have a lot of local support here and people will be cheering for me and for that I'm very thankful. At the same time, I don't want to put that pressure on myself. I'm just here to enjoy the week.''
Tamulis nearly qualified to play at Tiburon Golf Club last year for the finale, missing out by a slim margin. Getting that first win this year was just part of a big 2015; Tamulis got married in the spring, more than doubled the money she made in what some called a breakout 2014 season, and now she gets to play in the event that she was heartbroken to miss a year ago.
''This year, being here and qualifying has been fantastic,'' Tamulis said. ''I mean, it's a dream for me. This doesn't get any better. Winning was a great experience, but winning was just the culmination of a week. ... I'm glad it's the last week of the year. I think it's a great way to finish and then I'm going to go home and sit on the couch. I can't wait.''
There have been certain advantages to being in familiar surroundings this week.
For example, when she was driving over to a Ritz Carlton for a dinner engagement, she knew which route to take so she could finish getting dressed in the car. The next night, she ate at home with her parents. (''The food at the Ritz is probably a little bit better than my mom's cooking,'' Tamulis said.) Then before her final preparations at Tiburon on Wednesday, she squeezed in a dentist appointment.
''No cavities,'' Tamulis said.
Winning, she said, hasn't changed her. The trophy she got for winning the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic remains in the box in which it came. Her routines rarely change. She even still does her own vacuuming.
But coming back to where it all began shows Tamulis how far she's actually come.
''I've got a nice home and a nice car and where else can you travel the world and have everything that a normal person wants and strives for and play golf?'' Tamulis said. ''I know I'm not a superstar, but that's not my goal. I'm happy to write my thank you letters every week and be a great Pro-Am partner and support an event and just be me.''
DIVOTS: Lydia Ko and Inbee Park will settle 2015's top LPGA awards like player of the year, the scoring title and the money title this week. Meanwhile, Sei Young Kim has already wrapped up rookie of the year behind three victories. ''Three times won, then so a lot of people cheer me and it's been a happy (year),'' she said. ... This week marks Suzann Pettersen's first start in the U.S. since the Norwegian was involved in a controversial scene at the Solheim Cup, when she wanted American player Alison Lee penalized for picking up a ball because she thought a putt had been conceded. Pettersen has apologized repeatedly since, and the U.S. went on to top the European team for the Cup. Lee is playing Thursday with Germany's Sandra Gal, who lost the final match in what became a 14.5-13.5 come-from-behind win for the Americans.