Seongnam, Korea: Lee Tae-hee prevailed on the third extra hole to complete a wire-to-wire victory and claim his first Asian Tour title at the KR₩1.2 billion (about US$1.07 million) GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship.
Lee, who shared the overnight lead with Janne Kaske, was locked in a tight battle with his Finnish rival throughout the day. They closed with matching even-par 71s to tie on nine-under 275 after four rounds at Namseoul Country Club.
It was a birdie from six feet on the 75th hole that sealed the deal for Lee while Kaske was left to rue a bad break on the 18th fairway after his drive found a divot and his second shot ended up 20 yards short of the green. Kaske eventually three-putted for a double-bogey.
Lee took home the first-place cheque for US$266,798, thanks to his victory in the 38th edition of the event. It was his first Maekyung Open title and his third professional victory on home soil.
The duo had made respective double-bogeys and bogeys on the first two holes of the play-off, held on the 433-yard par-four 18th hole, before officials made a rare decision to change to a relatively easier pin position on the green.
“When I was on the course, I had strength, but when I finished, I felt really relieved,” said Lee. “Every hole was memorable. I think my birdie on the 14th hole was the turning point. I actually told my family not to come out today because of the dust but they still came to support.
“I just focused on my game. I’m very happy to win such a big tournament. I’m now going to aim for the Korean PGA Order of Merit title.
“Today is the most beautiful day of my life. It’s a moment that I will treasure forever. I am thinking of going to play on bigger Tours, like the Asian and European Tours.”
Korean Kim Dae-hyun returned the day’s best score of 65 to take third place on 276 while last year’s winner Park Sang-hyun settled for fourth spot on 279 following a second consecutive 69.
Prom Meesawat battled to a 68 to take seventh place on 280 while fellow-Thai Phachara Khongwatmai improved on his tied-12th finish last year by signing for a 73 to claim a share of eighth place at the event which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Korea Golf Association.