After a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday, Australian Katherine Kirk put the finishing touches on her third LPGA Tour victory at the inaugural Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. Kirk, who went 152 LPGA Tour starts between her last victory and Sunday, birdied the 72nd hole to finish at 22-under par, the lowest four-round tournament total in her career.
By Adam Stanley for LPGA.com
“To make that putt (on 18) was huge,” said Kirk. “All wins are good. Winning out here is hard, and it’s gotten a lot harder out here since I first did it, that’s for sure. There is so much talent out here now and it makes it so much harder to win. I think I’m the 15th-oldest player on Tour, so if you’re looking at age it’s more in favour of the younger generation these days… but hard work pays off. I’m grateful for the opportunity to still be playing, and I still love it.”
Kirk had an up-and-down Sunday with four bogeys offset by six birdies, and was able to hold off all challengers including Sei Young Kim and Pornanong Phatlum, who shot rounds of 9-under and 10-under respectively.
Kirk’s last LPGA Tour victory came in 2010, and to finally notch her third win proved to her that many years worth of hard work had finally paid off.
“So much hard work and patience, and I had a rough couple years like 2015 and 2016, and just an amazing team behind me. My husband has been 100 percent supportive the whole time,” said Kirk. I can’t put (this feeling) into words. It’s just a great feeling.”
South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai finished runner-up – her best finish ever on the LPGA Tour – after a 5-under-par 67 and said she was comfortable in the final pairing of the day.
“It was awesome. I felt I relished on it. From the first hole I started out with a birdie, and I just tried to keep feeding off it,” said Buhai of her first experience in a final group. I really enjoyed the support, and yeah, it was a lot of fun out there.
Buhai and Kirk had played together many times, but still, Kirk’s 22-under par total proved to be just one shot too many for Buhai to overcome.
Kim had another tremendous LPGA Tour finish this week, following up her fourth-place at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship a week ago with a solo third. It was her fifth top-5 finish in 2017.
“It was a great day because my shots were solid, and I (didn’t make) any mistakes today,” said Kim.
Phatlum, meanwhile, notched her career-best finish on the LPGA Tour, and did it in record-setting fashion. Her 10-under-par 62, which she dubbed ‘fantastic’ was the best score she’s ever notched as a professional.
“(My) tee shots (were) pretty good and also putted very well today,” she explained. Really fantastic (round). Just tried to do my game, work on my game plan, and then it worked very good today.”
Cristie Kerr finished in solo fifth, her fifth top-5 finish in 2017, including a victory at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hershey.
Kerr fired a 6-under-par 66 Sunday, with the lone blemish on the card being a bogey on her 72nd hole. Still, she’s taking momentum from this week into the U.S. Women’s Open next week.
“I thought it was great to play. Obviously I played well, so it’s always good to be playing well going into a major,” said Kerr. “I played really, really well… It’s a birdie-fest out there, so you’ve got to shoot about a 10-under to really climb up there. But I played really well.”
Tiffany Joh and Ayako Uehara both recorded their best finishes of 2017, finishing tied for sixth at 17-under for the week at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
Three golfers including Georgia Hall, Mariah Stackhouse, and Meghan Kang – who all recorded their best finishes of the year as well – finished a shot further back, at 16-under par, and were all tied for eighth to round out the top-10.
Next week the LPGA Tour heads to New Jersey for the U.S. Women’s Open, where Brittany Lang defends.
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(Photo by Getty Images.)