The LPGA Tour has finally crowned a new champion. In the first contest since February, following the COVID shutdown, Danielle Kang claimed a wire-to-wire victory at the LPGA Drive-On Championship.
Kang entered the third, and final, round at the Inverness Club tied for the lead with Celine Boutier and Jodi Ewart Shadoff at 5-under par. The American, though, quickly pulled ahead of her playing partners by three shots after just six holes.
“I kept telling myself, stick to the game plan. The game plan was to play aggressive and play my game,” said Kang, a Las Vegas resident. “No matter what anybody else did it didn’t really matter.”
As Shadoff fell off the pace, Boutier hung in there, and eventually took a share of the lead after back-to-back birdies on No. 13 and 14. A dropped a shot by the Frenchwoman on No. 15 proved to be most costly, though.
Following pars on Nos. 16 and 17 by each competitor, it came down to one final hole for the trophy: After Kang closed out with a two-putt par to post 7-under par, Boutier lined up a six-foot birdie putt to force overtime. Her putt, though, lipped out, and – just like that, Kang was a four-time LPGA winner.
“She was ahead the whole front, and then I just tried to focus on my game, because at that point I hadn’t played that well,” said Boutier. “So I just tried to hit fairways, hit greens, give myself opportunities, and then I managed to make a couple of birdies.”
Australian Minjee Lee (70) took solo third on 4-under par, one clear of Japanese rookie Yui Kawamoto (72) who finished alone in fourth-place.
Rounding out the top-5-finishers was Shadoff (75) who dropped to fifth on 2-under 70, yet was the only other player in the field to post a final score in the red.
The LPGA Drive On Championship is the first of two consecutive events in Toledo, Ohio. This coming week, the Tour will take on Highland Meadows Golf Club for the 35th playing of the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana.
Final Top-5 Finishers
Pos-Name-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Danielle Kang -7 (-2)
2. Celine Boutier -6 (-1)
3. Minjee Lee -4 (-2)
3. Yui Kawamoto -3 (E)
3. Jodi Ewart Shadoff -2 (+3)
Top-3 Check Cashers
- Kang – $150,000
- Boutier – $91,269
- Lee – $66,209
Name: Danielle Grace Kang
Height: 5′ 5″
Birthdate: Oct 20, 1992 (age 27)
Native: San Francisco, Calif
Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada
“I haven’t played since January at a tournament, and I even said after I won in the winning speech that I’m so thankful for our commissioner and the entire LPGA staff, because I love the decisions that they made, and I am so thankful in how safe they made it for us.
It’s normal — feels a little bit more normal to be back, and I know that the staff and everyone and the diligence that it takes for all the COVID protocols. I know it’s an extra many steps that they have to take, but I’m so thankful that they’re going out of their way to make sure that we can play.
All in all in that sense, I’m really happy and excited even for the LPGA and for the fans that are at home that could be watching and that we’re doing the best we can to put on entertainment and to be on TV.
I’m so thankful for the LPGA Drive On Championship. It’s an inaugural tournament, and at Inverness Club that’s brand new. Well, brand new on our schedule. I know that a lot of people have gone through a lot of tough things in the last many, many months and this year in 2020 has not an easy year for a lot of people, so I’m just thankful to be where I am.
During the COVID, all the time off, I made sure to try and be thankful every day for what I had. I think that really paid off, and I’m just in such a grateful position where I’m trying to do my best to be able to give back, whether it’s excitement or entertainment or happiness or joy, whatever I can.”
– Danielle Kang, LPGA Champion