The sun came out and so did the spectators, as the Volunteers of America® LPGA Texas Classic completed its final round at the Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas on Sunday.
The event has not been without its share of drama. First, wind and rain derailed play until late Friday afternoon, shortening the tournament to 36 holes. Then, a post-round ruling and one-shot penalty from the LPGA Rules Committee on Saturday moved then-tournament leader Nicole Broch Larsen from -7 to -6. This change shifted Larsen from solo first into a five-way, first round, first place tie with Aditi Ashok, Gabby Lopez, Jenny Shin and Sung Hyun Park.
Larsen ultimately finished out of contention at -5, and was on a plane back to Denmark before the tournament ended. Ashok finished her round at -7, with one birdie and three pars on her four remaining holes. For a while, she was all alone at the top of the leaderboard.
But, then, the next wave of players got on the course, and things got interesting.
After making a bogey on the first hole, Sung Hyun Park broke from the pack with an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole, tying her with Ashok at -7. She never slowed down from there.
Park, the 2017 Rookie of the Year and 2017 co-Player of the Year, ended her round with a bump-and-run chip-in from behind the green on 18 to close the day with a 66; taking her to -11.
With the abbreviated schedule, tournament organizers kept the original round pairings, so Lindy Duncan of the United States, Yiu Liu of China and Ariya Jutanugam of Thailand were still on the course when Park entered the clubhouse. All three started answering Park’s stellar play, having their own magic moments as they propelled their way up the leaderboard.
There was a time when it looked like Duncan was going to force a playoff. But, despite valiant efforts, including a clutch birdie following a disappointing lipped-out putt on the previous hole, it wasn’t meant to be. Duncan finished the day taking solo second, with -10. Yiu took third with -9. Jutanugam tied for fourth with Sei Yung Kim at -8.
No question, the day belonged to Sung Hyun Park. After a slow start in 2018, this two-time winner in 2017 carded her first win for the year. From the way she was playing, it’s sure to be the first of many more.
“It feels absolutely amazing to finally have my third win for my career, and there are no words that can express how I feel right now,” Park said. “The beginning of the season was pretty frustrating, since I missed two cuts, and I felt pretty upset inside. But, after today’s win, I just feel like everything kind of disappeared.”
The week prior to the competition, Park changed her putter and got some help from her most trusted golf advisor: her mom.
“I worked a lot with my mom. She knows my game pretty well and she helped me a lot,” Park said. “Coming into the week, I felt really good and actually told my mom that I think I’m going to win this week. I met that expectation.”
Despite a less-than-warm welcome from Texas weather, the first Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic held at Old American Golf Club was a definite success. Great golf, enthusiastic fans, and a scenic course nestled on a lake.
With any luck, next year, Mother Nature will be a little more cooperative.