Lee captures LPGA Portland Classic with final-round charge

Lee captures LPGA Portland Classic with final-round charge

Andrea Lee hits her tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of the Portland Classic at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland September 18, 2022. — AFP pic

Wednesday, 21 Sep 2022 6:30 AM MYT

LOS ANGELES, Sept 21 — Former world amateur number one Andrea Lee reeled off eight birdies in a 12-hole stretch on Sunday to win the Portland Classic and capture her first career LPGA title.

The 24-year-old American fired a six-under par 66 to finish 72 holes on 19-under 269 at Columbia Edgewater in Portland, Oregon.

“It’s more than I could imagine,” Lee said after her breakthrough triumph. “I can’t believe it. I’m speechless.”

Her charge was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Ecuador’s Daniela Darquea, who closed with three consecutive birdies to shoot 66 and finish on 270.

A third-place pack on 271 included South Korea’s An Na-rin, Australia’s Hannah Green, Japan’s Ayaka Furue, Germany’s Esther Henseleit and American Lilia Vu.

Lee had lost her LPGA playing rights last year but battled back with top play, sponsor exemptions and a developmental tour victory in April to reclaim her spot.

On Sunday, she made the most of her second chance.

“I just can’t believe I’m standing here after what I went through last year and the beginning of this year,” Lee said. “I’m still in shock right now.”

Lee shared the 54-hole lead but stumbled with birdies at the second and third holes, only to birdie three in a row starting at the par-5 fifth.

“I just told myself to stay really patient because I still had a lot of golf left,” Lee said.

Lee began the back nine with a birdie at the par-5 10th and then run off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 12th.

She added a birdie at the par-3 16th and closed with two clutch pars to hold off Darquea’s late charge.

“I just kept going on the back and I made five birdies,” Lee said. “It was nice to keep going that way. I still can’t believe that.”

Lee dedicated the victory to her grandfather, who died last November.

“He always believed in me and believed I was a champion,” she said. “And today I am one.”

Furue and Vu, who each fired 68, had shared the 54-hole lead with Lee.

Furue had won her first LPGA title in July at the Scottish Open after winning seven Japan Tour crowns.

Vu, also a former world amateur number one, missed out in her bid for her first LPGA title. — AFP