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American star Nelly Korda wins LPGA event hosted by Pak Se-ri

March 25, 2024 - 09:57 By Yonhap
Nelly Korda of the United States tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, California, on Sunday. (Getty Images)

American star Nelly Korda has been crowned the champion at the inaugural LPGA event hosted by South Korean legend Pak Se-ri.

Korda defeated fellow American Ryann O'Toole in a playoff to capture the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, California, on Sunday.

The two golfers were tied at nine-under 275 after 72 holes but took different paths to get there. Korda bogeyed two of the last three holes to shoot a 69 in the final round, while O'Toole shot a 66 with birdies at two of her final three holes.

But in the sudden death playoff, which began at the 18th hole, Korda drained her birdie putt to secure her 10th career LPGA win after O'Toole missed hers from a similar distance. Korda, who has won twice this season, took home US$300,000 in prize money. She is also projected to rise from No. 2 to No. 1 in the next women's world rankings.

Pak, a South Korean golf icon and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, teamed up with Fir Hills, a Silicon Valley-based investment company, to host her namesake tournament for the first time this year.

Pak, a 25-time LPGA winner with five majors, previously hosted a South Korean tour event bearing her name from 2014 to 2022 and also staged junior tournaments on both sides of the Pacific.

Pak, who burst onto the scene by winning two majors as a rookie in 1998, is credited with inspiring a new generation of golfers in South Korea and across Asia. Korda, who was born in 1998, said she was also inspired by the South Korean legend.

"Actually, this was the first time I got to speak and interact with her. Growing up, she inspired so many around and me being one of them," Korda said at her press conference. "She's one of the greatest to ever play the game. To get to meet her and talk to her, and win her event is an amazing feeling."

Shin Ji-yai was the top South Korean player, as she tied for fifth place at seven-under. Shin began the final round tied for the lead with Korean American Alison Lee at nine-under but carded a 73 in the final round with two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.

Shin, former world No. 1 and an 11-time LPGA winner, now plays full-time in Japan and makes only occasional U.S. tour appearances. She played at Pak's tournament on a sponsor's invite.

Shin, 35, is part of the generation of South Korean players who picked up golf after watching Pak in the late 1990s. Shin's victory would have created a neat storyline, but Shin said she struggled in windy conditions in the final round.

"Wind didn't help today. Made it so hard," Shin said. "But, you know, this is golf. It wasn't easy today, but I still enjoyed playing in front of my fans." (Yonhap)