Queensland’s Katherine Kirk finished tied for 18th at the KEB-HanaBank Championship being played in South Korea which was eventually won by KLPGA Tour member Kyu Jung Baek in a playoff.
Kirk fired rounds of 74, 72, 69 and 69 to finish at four-under-par and pick up a cheque for just over US$22,000. It was Kirk’s fourth top 20 finish of the season.
It was a great final round for fellow compatriot Minjee Lee, she fired a flawless final round of eight-under-par 64, which included two eagles, one on a par five and the other on a reachable par 4 and four birdies. Her final round saw her jump up the leaderboard and finish tied for 24th place at three-under-par. The only other Australian teeing it up this week was Sarah Jane Smith, she finished in a share of 62nd at eight-over-par.
For Baek it certainly was a memorable week, the KLPGA member was making her very first appearance in an LPGA Tour event. Baek birdied the par 5 18th on the first sudden-death playoff hole to defeat fellow KLPGA Tour member In Gee Chun and five-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany Lincicome.
The 19-year old shot a final-round 5-under 67 to get into the playoff. “Coming into the championship, my goal was to get in the Top-10 but after a really solid third round yesterday, my goal this morning was to get into the top 5,” said Baek.
“But I have to say I guess I was a little bit more conscious of winning because I was so nervous this morning, I kind of couldn't sleep.”
Lincicome, who was playing in three groups ahead of Baek, walked to the 18th tee box one shot back at 9-under par. She sank an eight-foot birdie putt to get to 10-under with the Korean duo and waited 15 minutes and watched the final groups come in.
Baek had a golden opportunity on the 18th hole to win the tournament outright but missed a 10-foot birdie putt to stay at 10-under.
“So going up to the 18th tee box, I knew I was tied for the lead and in the back nine, actually In Gee was doing very well,” said Baek.
“She was making birdies and I was making birdies. Going to 18, I thought we were tied -- and then In Gee missed a birdie putt and I thought this was my chance. But I also missed the birdie putt. So at the time I was kind of angry and frustrated at the same time.”
After regrouping, the trio headed to the 18th tee box. All three players laid up on the par 5 but Chun hit her third shot in the greenside water while Lincicome and Baek hit both of their shots to about four feet. Lincicome had the honor and left her putt on the lip of the right side of the hole setting Baek up for her winning chance.
“It was a very tricky putt. It broke both ways,” said Lincicome. “Couldn't be aggressive with it, it was downhill.” Baek said she had a similar putt to win on the KLPGA Tour this year and she wanted to have an aggressive stroke.
“So even before the playoff, I was in a similar situation for a similar shot with a similar break…When I played the KLPGA Championship -- I focused and was aggressive.”
With her victory, Baek is projected to move from No. 33 to No. 13 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She became the second non-member and KLPGA member to earn an LPGA Tour win this year, joining Hyo Joo Kim. Baek also becomes the sixth different Korean to record a victory and Koreans have now won seven of the last nine events.