Bronte Law and Natalie Schmett met less than a year ago through mutual golf friends in suburban Phoenix. Both in their early 20s, the third-year LPGA Tour player and aspiring coach connected instantly.
“She has something a lot of golfers don’t — grit,” Schmett said. “And you can’t teach that.”
Law displayed her grit and gifts Sunday in winning the Pure Silk Championship at Kingsmill, her first Tour victory. She birdied four of the first eight holes to seize the lead outright, composed herself after a sloppy bogey at No. 9, and poured in a clinching birdie at the par-4 16th.
Schmett was among the first to spray Law with the sponsor’s shaving cream after Law parred the final hole for a 17-under aggregate of 267, two better than Brooke Henderson, Madelene Sagstrom and playing partner Nasa Hataoka.
“As soon as I met her,” Schmett said, “I knew this was coming. Really.”
Indeed, Law appears to have the goods. Her decorated amateur career included myriad victories in her native England and the 2016 Annika Award as college golf’s top player after her junior season at UCLA.
Law’s first two seasons on the LPGA Tour didn’t produce a victory, but she made 36 cuts in 42 events, a rather stout percentage most fledglings would envy.
But as much as Schmett believed in Law, the piercing question was whether Law believed in herself.
“As soon as I got out on Tour, I knew I had the capabilities to win, 100 percent,” Law said. “I knew I had all of the tools in place. I just had to bring them all together.”
The final piece was putting.
After missing the cut at Kingsmill last year, Law caught the first available flight home to Arizona, and she spent the next day experimenting with various putters. The Scotty Cameron she chose that day was the one she used to win this tournament.
But it was more than an equipment change. Schmett radically changed Law’s putting approach, and the transition was challenging.
“She’s made such strides in my putting, and honestly, that’s been the difference,” Law said. “The work that we’ve put in on the putting green hasn’t been pretty. There have been times I’ve almost wanted to stop and not trust it. … It was a big change both visually for me over the ball and physically changing body positions, too. It was very necessary, and it was very difficult.”
Back-to-back missed cuts in April, including at the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, were not encouraging. But three weeks ago in suburban San Francisco, Law stormed from 10 shots back entering the final round to force a playoff with Sei Young Kim and Jeongeun Lee6.
Kim prevailed on the first extra hole, but the experience “flipped a switch” for Law, who spent the Tour’s subsequent two off weeks marinating in confidence.
“I deep down really, truly believed in myself after San Francisco,” she said.
It was evident from the start at Kingsmill. Law shared the lead after each of the first three rounds, and playing in the final group Sunday, she never blinked.
Two scenes from back-nine tee boxes Sunday were telling.
As Law pulled driver from the bag on the 11th hole, a short par-4 that doesn’t demand length, Golf Channel analyst Jerry Foltz questioned her club selection on the air. Law’s drives on Nos. 9 and 10 had drifted right, and sure enough, she found trouble to the right on No. 11, too.
But Law’s lone bogey in that stretch was at No. 9, and when she birdied 16 to give herself a two-shot cushion at 17 under, she pumped her fist twice.
“You’re going to hit some bad shots, and you’re going to hit some weird shots,” Schmett said. “But she stayed patient.”
“I feel like I held it together pretty well in the middle of the round when things could have all gone pear-shaped,” Law said.
The issue in the middle of the round was fatigue. Law prefers not to eat much when she plays in the heat — she gets nauseous — but the lack of nourishment was affecting her swing. A few crackers on the 11th hole were all the fuel she needed.
Fast forward to the 18th tee. With the group ahead — Henderson and Jennifer Song — still in the fairway, Law found some solitude and plopped down in the grass.
“I loved it!” Schmett said. “I was like, she’s really calm right now.”
And worn out from 17 holes in 90-plus-degree heat.
“I was just tired, honestly,” Law said. “It had been a long day. … It was literally nothing more than that.”
Law’s day wasn’t nearly over. After all the champion’s obligations, she and her team began the long drive to Charleston, S.C., site of this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.
“This,” Law said, “is kind of the perfect way to prepare.”
David Teel, 757-247-4636, email@example.com, Twitter @DavidTeelatDP