New Zealander Liv Cheng made a par on the second playoff hole to win her first career Symetra Tour event at the Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona this morning.
Cheng posted a 2-under, par round of 70 coming from two shots back heading into the day to set the clubhouse lead at 7 under par and went on to defeat American Mina Harigae in the playoff with Canadian Anne-Catherine Tanguay finishing in third place at 6-under par. West Australia's Hannah Green also had a great week, finishing in a tie for 5th place at 4 under par.
Cheng earns the first-place check of $15,000 and moves to fourth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list after three events. She was 72nd entering the week.
“It feels amazing and I still can’t believe it,” said Cheng. “I’m over the moon excited.”
Cheng made a 17-foot par putt on the 17th hole and a par on 18 to get into the clubhouse at 7-under par, one shot ahead of Tanguay, while Harigae who was the co-leader entering the day, bravely holed from 3 metres for par on the 18th hole to force the playoff.
“I was out of position with my driver, but I stuck to it and scrambled,” explained Cheng, who scrambled well on the final two holes and in the playoff. “I never gave up and trusted myself and the putts rolled in. I think I had 11 putts on the back nine and that really helped with scoring.”
After both players made par at the first playoff hole, Harigae hit her second shot into the hazard on the second playoff hole which opened the door for Cheng, who was able to hole from 3 metres for par to claim the victory.
“I feel like we kept going in the bunker together,” said Cheng about the bunker shots both players faced in the playoff. “I once again got out of position with my driver, but I scrambled to make the par which was great.”
Cheng had just 24 putts in her round on Saturday.
“My putter feels really good right now, definitely the best club in my bag right now,” said Cheng.
Cheng has had just one top 10 finish in her first two years on Tour, and this victory puts her in a great spot early in the season.
“I feel really good about my game,” said Cheng. “This is my third year playing on the Symetra Tour and I feel like this year I have the tools in my game to play better and get myself on the LPGA Tour.”
Cheng finished 63rd on the money list in 2016 and 108th as a rookie in 2015.
“The win this week makes me really happy that the hard work is starting to pay off,” said Cheng. “I’m definitely starting to see results.”
Cheng was a four-time WCC First-Team performer while in college at Pepperdine.
“After college, I decided that I wanted to play professional golf and pursue a career,” said Cheng. “I’ve seen some of my friends do well on the LPGA and that is where I want to be.”
Cheng grew up playing junior golf with and against world No. 1 Lydia Ko, and is the first player from New Zealand to win on the Symetra Tour since Cathryn Bristow in 2011. Bristow and Cheng are the only two New Zealanders to win on the Symetra Tour.
Olivia Jordan-Higgins remains in the top spot on the Volvik Race for the Card money list while Tanguay, who has finished inside the top 10 in all three events, moves from third to second.
The Tour heads to Northern California next week for the inaugural POC MED Golf Classic at Windsor Golf Club from April 7-9.
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