LOTTE Championship Champion Brooke Henderson dances the hula after winning the 2018 tournament at Ko Olina Golf Club
(Feature Photo by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)
By Kyle Galdeira
After a shaky finish to end her third-round performance on Friday, former hockey goalie Brooke Henderson turned in a consistent effort throughout the final round to net the iconic LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey trophy at Ko Olina Golf Club Saturday in ‘Ewa, O‘ahu.
Henderson carded a 3-under 69 to finish 12-under for the tourney, and receives the $300,000 championship prize as part of the event’s $2 million purse. In the previous two seasons, Henderson waited until her 15th start to post her first victory of that year; Saturday’s win came in just her eighth start of 2018.
Runner-up Azahara Munoz (8-under) finished four strokes off the lead, while the trio of Ariya Jutanugarn, Shanshan Feng and Inbee Park finished tied for third at 7-under.
Golfers dealt with a host of varying weather conditions, including stiff breezes, passing rain showers and humid conditions that persisted after O‘ahu was pummeled by a series of thunderstorms Friday night and early Saturday morning. However, the conditions were mild compared to the ice storm faced by those in Henderson’s hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.
“My sixth win on tour, I’m so happy. This is another dream come true,” said Henderson. “I would love to win a few more times out here. I know it’s extremely tough, every single week there are so many talented players, I’m just happy that I’m one of them.”
With the win, which Henderson dedicated to the 15 victims of a deadly crash involving a bus carrying a junior hockey team in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, the third-year pro earned her sixth career LPGA victory, and is now two wins shy of tying Canadian great Sandra Post for the most triumphs by a Canadian player in LPGA Tour history. Henderson also vaulted from 12th to second place in the Race to the CME Globe championship standings.
“I love it here, it’s really amazing,” Henderson said. “The energy and the fun atmosphere and just how beautiful it is. I have played well here in the past, so I knew coming in I might have a good shot at it.”
Henderson started the day with a one-stroke lead, but built a three-stroke advantage by nailing two clutch birdie putts on the third and ninth holes. After giving a stroke back on the par-3 12th, Henderson notched birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 to take what proved to be an insurmountable lead.
Park will have to wait for her 20th career LPGA victory, an accomplishment that will move her into a tie for 26th on the tour’s all-time wins list along with Laura Davies and Cristie Kerr. Park completed her seventh Lotte Championship, while her best finish came as a runner-up in 2015 after she lost in a playoff with Sei Young Kim.
“It wasn’t a bad round, just the way I putted was horrible,” Park said. “Bogey, bogey finish with a short missed putt. Everything else, I scrambled pretty well out there. Just the putter; the way I putted was not satisfying.”
Feng, the top-ranked golfer in the world out of China who will continue to hold the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings for the 23rd consecutive week, was consistent on Saturday and notched a 1-under 71.
Local professional Michelle Wie carded a final-round mark of 71, and after beginning the day in a tie for 18th place, went on to finish tied for 11th place with an overall mark of 285 (3-under). The LPGA tour veteran and Punahou product spent the week coping with a recent wrist injury, dealing with an inner-ear ailment and playing with a heavily taped knee. Wie’s gallery included a few hundred spectators – including friends, family and local junior golfers – and the following grew as the day went on.
“It was a tough day out there today, so I’m happy to be under par,” Wie said. “I felt like I putted well today, and that helps in conditions like this. I felt like I made a lot of good par saves out there to keep the momentum going. A lot of my friends came out today, so that was really fun to see.”
(Photos by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)