Sunday, April 13, 2014

Studio Alice Ladies Sunday: Esther Lee Wins with Walkoff Birdie

Esther Lee has been knocking on the door over and over during her 1st 7 seasons on the JLPGA, but today she finally busted it down with a walkoff birdie that gave her a 1-shot victory over Onnarin Sattayabanphot at the Studio Alice Ladies.  On a day when former KLPGA rivals Ji-Yai Shin and Sun-Ju Ahn leapfrogged from the bottom of the pack into the top 10 with an 8-birdie 66 and a 6-birdie 68, respectively, and when Mayu Hattori (bogey-free 66) and Miki Sakai (bogey-free 67) moved all the way to 4th and 3rd, respectively, the clash between the top 2 players in the field was much more of a battle of attrition.

It's not like Lee and Sattayabanphot got off to bad starts.  With her bogey-free 34 on the front, Lee pulled even with the 1st- and 2nd-round leader, who began her campaign for her 3rd JLPGA title with 9 straight pars.  And when Sattayabanphot birdied the 504-yard par-5 10th to get to -10, she held a 1-shot lead on Lee, a 4-shot lead on Sakai, and a 6-shot lead on Ritsuko Ryu (who would go on to finish T5 at -4).  So essentially the last 8 holes were a duel between Sattayabanphot and Lee.  But the back, which had been the leader's bread and butter over the 1st 36 holes, proved to be her downfall today.  It wasn't the bogey on the 162-yard par-3 12th that did her in, as Lee also bogeyed it.  It wasn't that Lee then tied her with a birdie on the 369-yard par-4 13th.  It wasn't even that Sattayabanphot fell behind Lee for the 1st time since the back 9 on Friday when she bogeyed the 363-yard par-4 14th.  It was really that Sattayabanphot couldn't make another birdie on the back than her 10th of the week on the 10th hole.  That opened the door for Lee, who made up for her bogey on the 379-yard par-4 17th with a birdie on the 402-yard par-4 18th to seal the deal and walk away with her 1st career JLPGA victory.

With her win, Lee jumped from #16 to #6 on the 2014 JLPGA money list, right behind Sattayabanphot, who at least had the consolation of extending her lead over her nearest competitors.

1. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥30.12M

2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥25.90M
3. Rikako Morita ¥23.17M
4. Ayaka Watanabe ¥22.84M
5. Erina Hara ¥18.35M
6. Esther Lee ¥17.75M

7. Yuki Ichinose ¥15.94M
8. Bo-Mee Lee ¥15.09M
9. Miki Sakai ¥13.85M
10. Ritsuko Ryu ¥13.73M
11. Saiki Fujita ¥12.13M
12. Yumiko Yoshida ¥10.37M
13. Asako Fujimoto ¥10.19M
14. Mami Fukuda ¥9.81M
15. Ji-Yai Shin ¥9.44M
16. Yukari Baba ¥8.59M
17. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥7.02M
18. Bo-Bae Song ¥6.91M
19. Airi Saitoh ¥6.90M
20. Mamiko Higa ¥6.88M

Next up on the JLPGA is the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies, which Miki Saiki won in dramatic fashion last year.  Among 2013's greats and worldwide stars who have gotten off to slow starts in 2014--Momoko Ueda, Teresa Lu, Sakura Yokomine, Shiho Oyama--Saiki's has been among the slowest.  Let's see if they can get things in gear for this year next week!  And if those already in gear can take it up a notch....

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