Hyo Joo Kim Goes Wire-to-Wire to Capture The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America
By Michael Abramowitz
THE COLONY - On a glorious October Sunday designed for picture-perfect postcards, rounds of golf and champagne showers, Hyo Joo Kim took what amounted to a victory lap Sunday as she went wire-to-wire to capture The Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America and the Kathy Whitworth Trophy.
While things tightened up in the middle of Sunday’s final round, Kim never faced any serious challenge en route to a four-stroke victory over both Bianca Pagdanganan and Atthaya Thitikul.
Kim was drenched with a champagne shower on the 18th green after she made par on the 72nd hole. With a 2-under par 69, she finished the tournament at 13-under 271 (64-68-70-69).
Her signature shot was a lengthy birdie putt on No. 9 that had a Tiger Woods-esque hang on the lip of the hole. Kim walked away expecting to tap in, when suddenly the ball dropped for glory.
She could only smile and shrug seeing her good fortune.
“After I hit the putt, it went down exactly the way I wanted and how I wanted, and it stopped just right before the hole,” said Kim. “I was like, how could this be? It went in as I was walking, so really happy about that.”
The winner’s Kathy Whitworth Trophy dons a horseshoe for good luck, so the putt just made sense. Old lady luck was shining down at Old American Club.
For the year, Kim, 28, now has nine Top 10 finishes and her first win of the season. This is her sixth LPGA Tour victory of her career.
She admitted some frustration at the beginning of the week that she hadn’t finished the drill with a victory previously. All that changed with four straight rounds under par.
At 8-under par 276 for the week, Sarah Kemp finished fourth.
Lexi Thompson, who departs for Las Vegas for next week’s Shriners Children’s Open on the PGA Tour, finished fifth with a 7-under par 277 (71-65-71-70).
“I've been working extremely hard on my game and to see it pay off in these last few weeks, starting at the Solheim Cup there, just to see the improvements, that's all I've needed,” said Thompson.
She will become just the seventh woman to play in the PGA TOUR, following in the footsteps of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie West, Brittany Lincicome and Suzy Whaley.
“My ball striking, I'll definitely need my top game going into next week,” added Thompson. “Get that driver more in tune. Didn't hit it too much on this golf course, but I'm going to need it I'm sure there.”
Cheyene Knight, of Aledo, Texas, tied the course and tournament record with a final round 8-under par 63. It was an encore performance, as she did the exact same thing during last year’s final round. Six players have shot a 63 in the event. Knight finished in sixth place with a 6-under par 278 (70-71-74-63), seven shots behind Kim.
Katherine Muzi, of Newport Beach, California, who entered the field through the Monday qualifier, shot a 4-under par 68 Sunday to finish T7 with Leona Maguire and So Yeon Ryu, eight shots back at 5-under par 279 overall.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Sarah Schmelzel and Frida Kinhult finished T10 at 4-under par 280.
Lindsay Weaver-Wright, of nearby Prosper, Texas, holed out from 137 yards for eagle with the shot of the day on No. 18. She is due in December and will soon take maternity leave. Weaver-Wright finished T16 with a 2-under par 282. She recorded a 1-under par 70 for the day.
Kim earns $270,000 with the win, pushing her season earnings over $2 million and $8.6 million for her LPGA career. Hae Ran Ryu and Brooke Henderson are the only other wire-to-wire winners this season on the LPGA Tour.
“It was good to maintain the good score throughout the week, but that win at the end is what really matters,” said Kim.