Monday, July 10, 2017

Lee Outlasts Kim to Win Inaugural Donald Ross Centennial Classic at French Lick Resort

Erynne Lee
Jan Stephenson also wins Honors Division title for a third straight year as part of the Senior LPGA Championship 

(FRENCH LICK, Indiana) - Erynne Lee (Silverdale, Washington) outlasted August Kim (Saint Augustine, Florida) on the third playoff hole to win the inaugural Donald Ross Centennial Classic at French Lick Resort on Sunday. Lee picks up her second career victory and first of the 2017 season. The six days of women’s professional golf in French Lick continues on Monday with the first round of the Senior LPGA Championship at the Pete Dye Course. Golf Channel will have live coverage all three days from 4-6 p.m.

By making par on the third playoff hole, Lee pockets the second largest winner’s payout on Tour of $30,000 to move from 23rd to fourth on the new Volvik Race for the Card money list. She has now earned $47,990 in 13 starts.

There are now just eight events left in the 2017 season on the Symetra Tour.

“It’s still hitting me and the thing I’m looking back on is the great golf I played today,” said Lee, who posted a 5-under, 66. “The only thing I could control was my golf so I’m really happy with my attitude and how I played.”

Kim fired a 7-under, 64 to come from two shots back to force the playoff. The former Purdue golfer took the lead with birdies on holes nine, ten and 11. Lee responded with a birdie putt on 14 to level the duel at 10-under. Both players hit marvelous tee shots on the par-3 16th and made virtual tap-in birdies.

On hole 17, Lee drained a near-20 footer for birdie to get to 12-under and the rookie didn’t back down by making a 12-foot downhill putt. Lee and Kim both made par on 18 to head to a playoff. On the third playoff hole, Kim hit her approach from the second cut in the left rough past the green and down the patented Donald Ross hump back green. She had a very difficult pitch to the downward sloping back pin and ran it by. She missed the 20-foot par putt and Lee two-putted for the win.

“I pretty much had the same yardage in for the last four holes (including the three playoff holes on 18) so it was just about being committed to every shot,” explained Lee. “It’s a stretch to go from 18 to 21 holes, but having that opportunity is amazing. I just wanted to get my first putt near the hole and I did.”

Lee made a two-foot par putt to win.

Lee gave a lot of credit during her victory speech to her father, Brian, who returned as her caddy starting with the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY in early June. She finished in a tie for fourth and hasn’t looked back.

“During the first couple tournaments this year, I went solo as it was a mutual decision,” said Lee, who had her dad on the bag last year. “The break was good for us and we learned to appreciate each other more. We’re out here together as a team and it is working out in our favor.”

Lee also talked about her mom, Debbie, during the ceremony. Debbie passed away from a Brain Aneurysm during her freshman year at UCLA.

“I went through a downward spiral at school when she passed away, but fortunately with the help from teammates and family it helped me come out of the dark spot,” explained Lee, who said mom was watching over her. “She wasn’t a golfer, but she had the knowledge because she would watch YouTube swing videos and read books like any other parent. I definitely wouldn’t be here without her.”

Lee’s rookie season in 2016 was full of ups and downs. She won her first ever start on the Symetra Tour, but finished 17th on the money list and failed to earn her LPGA Tour card. She went 33 starts without a win until Sunday.

“It’s not easy out here, a lot of the girls are really competitive and they are getting younger and younger,” said Lee. “I feel like the win is a long time coming and I was knocking on the door so I’m glad to secure the win.”

BENYAPA NIPHATSOPHON MOVES TO #1 ON VOLVIK RACE FOR LPGA: Benyapa Niphatsophon (Bangkok, Thailand) recorded her seventh top 10 finish of the season to move from second to first on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. Niphatsophon carded a final-round 69 to finish solo third at 8-under for the week.

She has now earned $70,415 in 11 starts.

Her total is even more impressive considering she has accumulated the money without the benefit of a win. She has finished inside the top 5 seven times and has three second place results.

FORMER BOILERMAKER HAS BEST FINISH: August Kim - who was the 2016 Big Ten individual champion during her junior year at Purdue - forced Erynne Lee into a playoff with outstanding play on Sunday.

“I did my best, I got the ball as close to the pin as I could and dropped a lot of putts,” said Kim. “Three playoff holes, I think that is the first time I’ve done that. Congrats to Erynne, she played awesome.”

Kim made 13 birdies and just one bogey over her final two rounds at the Donald Ross Course. She posted a 66 on Saturday.

“I needed this week,” said Kim, who missed the cut in two straight events. “I’ve worked a lot on the right things and it definitely showed in my putting.”

Kim was proud to perform well in the state of Indiana. Her first start on Tour came in South Bend and she finished T15 at the Four Winds Invitational.

“We’ve had a lot of success on this exact course,” said Kim about the past Purdue teams and players that have won on the Donald Ross Course like Laura Gonzalez Escallon. “To show up and play the best I have here means a lot to me.”

JAN STEPHENSON WINS HONORS DIVISION BY FOUR SHOTS: Jan Stephenson won her third consecutive Honors Division Championship as part of the Senior LPGA Championship. She posted a 3-over, 75 to best Jane Blalock (7-over) and Sandra Palmer (8-over).

“There is something really special about winning,” said Stephenson, who won 16 times on the LPGA Tour. “I told Erynne to really savor each win because when you’re young you worry about the next tournament. I think it’s important to really savor each one. Nowadays I absolutely love to win. I work really hard just for the trophy.”

Stephenson pockets the first-place check of $4,000.

“This definitely helps because this is a tough course,” said Stephenson about getting ready for the Senior LPGA Championship. “I think I can be really aggressive over at the Pete Dye Course because I am more comfortable with the greens over there.”

Stephenson organized dinner with some of the Australian players on the Symetra Tour for Sunday night before round one on the Pete Dye Course.

“It’s a really big deal,” said Stephenson of the Senior LPGA Championship. “I wish it were 15 years ago and I felt like I could contend, but I am playing well and it was inspiring to see the Symetra Tour players this week. I hung out and watched them play yesterday. It makes me realize that the LPGA is in a great spot. These girls can really, really play.”

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