Lingshui, China: Mexican Gaby Lopez gave herself a belated birthday present when she won the Blue Bay LPGA by one stroke in Hainan Island for her maiden pro title.
A day after turning 25, Lopez closed with a 73 for a 72-hole score of eight-under 280 at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club. The victory at the tournament co-sanctioned by the China and US LPGA Tours was worth US$315,000.
World number one Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand finished runner-up after also posting a 73, while France’s Celine Boutier roared up the leaderboard with a closing 66 to finish third on 282.
Defending champion Feng Shanshan, the world number 11, was the top Chinese in ninth place after closing with a 68.
Only the second Mexican to win on the US LPGA Tour after former world number one Lorena Ochoa, it proved a tough final day for Lopez whose card was made up of four birdies, five bogeys and nine pars. With tension mounting, she dropped shots at the last two holes.
“It was a difficult day for me. I didn’t hit the ball very well. I was a little bit nervous. It was probably the longest day of my entire life. But trusting and hitting solid shots at the end kind of helped,” said the fourth-year pro who played college golf at the University of Arkansas.
“It was the most special week I have ever had. My putting didn’t let me down all day long and yesterday. It’s been just great to have this week.”
Ariya, a three-time winner this year, started the day one shot off the lead and quickly found herself playing catch-up to playing partner Lopez after carding four bogeys on the front nine. She settled down on the back nine to make three birdies, including one at the last, but it wasn’t enough.
Feng, who is winless this year after capturing three titles last year, expressed relief to close with her first sub-par round of the tournament.
Danielle Kang (68), winner of last month’s Buick LPGA Shanghai, finished fourth on 283, one stroke better than fellow American Jennifer Song (72). Korean Park Sung-hyun, the world number two, was equal seventh after closing with a 74, tied with Thai Moriya Jutanugarn (71).
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