Cambridge, Ontario – With the title sponsor completing their commitment, Sunday might have seen the last of the Manulife LPGA Classic, and if so, the tournament went out with a bang. Or more specifically a lengthy, dramatic winning putt by one of the best players in the world at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
Ariya Jutanugarn, who won five times in 2016 and is expected to ascend to the World #1 ranking on Monday, used one mighty stroke from 25 feet on the 1st playoff hole to defeat Lexi Thompson and In Gee Chun. With her first win of the season Jutanugarn takes home a winner’s cheque of $255,000.
That possibility seemed an improbability halfway through the final round as Thompson pushed her score to -20 and looked to be headed for a multiple stroke win.
Then golf happened.
Thompson’s back nine was marred by four bogies including a pair on the final two holes to drop to -17, creating the playoff with Chun and Jutanugarn. They had pretty much conceded that Thompson would be lifting the trophy. As Lexi came in to the final hole, Jutanugarn and Chun were occupying themselves by taking selfies instead of getting ready for a playoff.
Jutanugarn, who speaks limited English, explained, “Yeah, because I think when I’m there I feel we are rooting for Lexi because she just have to make par to win, and we (were) pretty sure she going up to make par.”
With her first win of the season and likely the #1 ranking secured Jutanugarn was not taking much time to celebrate. Her plans? “We have to drive to Grand Rapids, so my caddie (is) going to drive and I’m going to sleep.”
Jutanugarn will also rise to No.1 on the LPGA Tour’s season-long Race to the CME Globe.
— LPGA (@LPGA) June 11, 2017
With three Canadians inside the top 15 heading into the final round, a fairy tale ending was possible in Cambridge but did not come to fruition.
Ontario-based pros Alena Sharp, Brittany Marchand, and Brooke Henderson were the trio who earned their way to the weekend of the thirteen home-country golfers who started the week.
Surprisingly Henderson was third among them (t-14) heading into the final stanza but she was the only one to rise up the leaderboard on Sunday, ultimately finishing in a share of 11th (71-68-67-71).
She explained that it was a tough day to be making up strokes on the leaders.
“You know, today was a really tough day. Conditions were extremely difficult,” Canada’s top female golfer shared with the media. “You know, the wind was blowing. The greens dried out. The fairways dried out as well. You had to pick different lines and land the ball 15 yards short sometimes of the pin, which we’re not necessarily used to. So it took a lot of patience out there and a lot of consistency with your shots. You know, I did that pretty well. Obviously a little bit disappointed. But T11, I can’t complain too much.”
A final round 76 left dropped Alena Sharp down eleven spots in the final round. She ended in a share of 15th place (66-66-70-76).
Despite the score she seemed pleased with the overall performance not far from her childhood hometown.
“It’s been an amazing week. I played well today actually. I played better today than yesterday. Just hit one bad shot on the last and didn’t make any putts, so it’s kind of not sitting well at this moment. But, I mean, the fan support was amazing. My family was here. I love playing in front of them. Just to have a chance to win was awesome. In your own country? I mean it’s hard to do. I was really happy how I handled myself. It’s a great start to seven weeks, and I’m looking forward to continuing the good stretch.”
The Canadian surprise of the event was Brittany Marchand. The Mono, Ontario native and Symetra Tour player was inside the top ten with eighteen holes left to play. Unfortunately the moment seemed a little too big for her on Sunday and she fell down the board on her way to an 81.
Despite this, she showed is capable of playing with the best players in the world (67-70-67-81) and finished in a share of 46th.
“Well, it wasn’t what I wanted obviously, but it was a way tougher day,” explained Marchand, who says the experience this week should help her going forward on both the Symetra Tour and when she gets a chance to play on the LPGA Tour again. “I knew going into it that it was going to be kind of a grind with how windy it started out the day. Started out just trying to make pars; just wasn’t happening for me. A lot of bad calculations today I felt, because I actually hit some good shots.”
Estimated attendance for the week at Whistle Bear was 57,812
The Manulife LPGA Classic announced this year’s donation of $413,536 to the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation. In six years the event topped $2 million in donations.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of Manulife and Sports Properties International over the past six years,” said Susan Dusick, President of the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation. Not only have the funds raised help to equip and expand the Region’s Cardiac Care Centre, but the tournament has provided a forum to raise awareness of women’s heart health. The community’s involvement with Red Day has far surpassed expectations and is an initiative that we look forward to continuing.”
“I want to thank our spectators, volunteers, and partners for the support they have shown the tournament, and to Manulife for their partnership in putting on this world-class event,” said Hugh Morrow, CEO of Sports Properties International. “The support we’ve had from the Waterloo Region and Southern Ontario has been tremendous and we hope to continue with the event in the region.”