After seven years and 152 tournament starts, Queensland’s Katherine Kirk has claimed her third LPGA Tour career victory.
After seven years and 152 tournament starts, Queensland’s Katherine Kirk has claimed her third LPGA Tour victory.
She did it in dramatic fashion too, rolling in an 11-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at finish at 22 under and grab the inaugural Thornberry Creek Classic title by one stroke from South African Ashleigh Buhai. It was the lowest four-round tournament total in Kirk’s career.
“To make that putt (on 18) was huge,” Kirk said. “All wins are good. Winning out here is hard, and it’s gotten a lot harder out here since I first did it, that’s for sure. There is so much talent out here now and it makes it so much harder to win.
“I think I’m the 15th-oldest player on Tour, so if you’re looking at age it’s more in favour of the younger generation these days … but hard work pays off. I’m grateful for the opportunity to still be playing, and I still love it.”
Kirk had an up-and-down Sunday with four bogies offset by six birdies, and was able to hold off all challengers including South Korea’s Sei Young Kim (63) and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum (62).
Buhai finished runner-up after her five under 67 playing alongside Kirk in what developed into an intense duel down the stretch.
“It was awesome. I felt I relished from it,” Buhai said. “From the first hole I started out with a birdie, and I just tried to keep feeding off it.”
For Kirk, the victory – her first on the LPGA Tour since 2010 – is the pay-off for years of patience and hard work.
“So much hard work and patience, and I had a rough couple years like 2015 and 2016, and just an amazing team behind me. My husband has been 100 percent supportive the whole time,” said Kirk, who has earned a start in the Women’s US Open next week courtesy of the win.
“When you're in that position (not playing well enough to win) and you've had kind of success before, it does go through your mind, well, maybe I don't have what it takes to be competitive out here anymore.
“I mean, I thought I was working hard enough. So when you're in that position not getting in every tournament, it's kind of a grind, and certainly in the back of my mind it's like, well, maybe it's time to figure out something else to do. Yeah, change of swing coach and just kind of, I guess, a little bit harder work, it's paid off.
“Certainly very grateful still to be playing. Obviously I still love it, so I'm thankful for that because I know there's a lot of girls out here, obviously they're very talented but they don't kind of enjoy it as much as some other players, and I've always loved golf and loved the social aspect of it, and played with my parents growing up, my grandfather until he was 85. I think it's the best game on the planet, and to be able to do it for a living, I'm so humbled and grateful for it.”
Kirk says she now heads to the Women’s US Open in the best pre-major form of her career.
“Yeah, I mean, just winning is totally unexpected, and obviously getting in the Open is unexpected. I've got to scramble and get a flight out there now and get my caddie out there and get accommodation. But yeah, it's going to be a great week.
“It's always fun to play in majors, and I'm carrying probably the best form into a major than I ever have before for me. That's going to be exciting, I just hope I can have enough energy to get me through the week.”