|Park Gyo-rin, center, celebrates her maiden KLPGA title win at the typhoon-shortened 9th KG― Edaily Ladies Open, Sunday. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jeong-kyoo
Rookie Park Gyo-rin won the typhoon-shortened 9th KG-Edaily Ladies Open with KFC for her maiden career KLPGA Tour title, Sunday.
The 20-year-old fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 for an overall 11-under 133 to edge out Cho Jeong-min by a single stroke at the 6,672-yard Sunning Point Country Club in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.
The win was the fifth title to be won by a rookie this season. Park received 120 million won in \total prize money.
Asked about her first career win, Park said, "It's like a dream. I didn't expect to win, I just focused on my game. I thank my backers and family for their support and care. I want to be a consistent player and vie for the Rookie award."
The score in the first round on Friday looked like it was critical as Typhoon Lingling was approaching to lash the entire peninsula over the weekend.
Park hit a 5-under 67 to share third place with a batch of 10 others, two shots behind Yang Chae-lin. Yang fired a bogey-free 7-under 65 on the opening day to sit atop the leaderboard.
On Saturday, the typhoon brought strong winds and tournament officials suspended the second round at around 17:00. Despite a long wait, there were no signs of the storm abating. More than half the field had to abandon the day's game remaining unfinished.
And shortly afterwards, tournament officials went on to cancel the final round, shortening the 54-hole stroke play to a 36-hole tournament. Suddenly, the second round turned into the final round.
Competitors who did not end their second round on Saturday started playing their remaining holes Sunday morning at 10:00.
At that juncture, the major concern was if Cho could supplant Yang to triumph. Unexpectedly, however, the winner was Park.
Yang stumbled out of the gate with a bogey on the first hole, ending tied for 19th place with 10 others. Cho lacked the firepower to charge ahead, eventually settling for sole second place.
Unknown rookie Park came from three shots behind to clinch her maiden title.
With a birdie on the 15th, Park reduced her three-shot deficit to two as she reached the turn. When she rattled off her second birdie of the day on the par-3 second, she found herself sharing second place with Cho. She stood two shots behind the leader with seven holes to play. Spectators started to feel the rookie might win her first tour title.
Then, she rattled off a back-to-back birdie on the par-5 third to become joint leader with Lee waiting in the clubhouse.
She looked as if she was succumbing to the pressure when she missed three makeable putts in a row before birdying the seventh. With this precious birdie, she became the sole leader for the first time. With two holes to play, the birdie almost set the seal on her first career victory. One of the strong favorites Cho was two shots behind her and playing sluggishly without a noticeable rally.
Surprisingly enough, she rattled off a back-to-back birdie on the eighth to lead the field by two strokes. Now she stood a safe distance from Cho at 8-under, three shots behind her.
When she hit a decent third shot on the par-5 last hole, she looked poised to claim the trophy. After calmly making a two-putt par from pretty long range, she took to the clubhouse with an 11-under lead, three shots clear of Cho.
Now, all hinged on how Cho would play her remaining four holes to reduce her three shot deficit and force a playoff. However, despite her all-out efforts, she only managed two birdies.
When runner-up Cho reeled in her second birdie of the day on the 15th, she chased the leader by two shots with three holes to play. Capping the final hole with a birdie, she hit a 4-under 68 for an aggregate 10-under 134, taking second. She failed to force a playoff because of the one-stroke deficit.
Lee Da-yeon, 22, hit a 4-under 68 for an overall 9-under 135 to take third place.