Chella Choi’s dad, a former police officer, can now finally get his wish and retire as her caddie after eight years – seven on the LPGA and one on the Symetra Tour. The agreement between father and daughter was stay on the bag until we hoist a trophy together. They did Sunday at the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I, outlasting Ha Na Jang in the first playoff hole with a par for her first career win in her 157th LPGA start.
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe,” Choi said. “It’s my dreams coming true. Very exciting. I work with my father eight years and somebody say like that’s why I don’t win, just for my caddie. So I’m excited with my father. And, you know, like first time win is hard, but second and third is easier. Hopefully this is a turning point for me.”
Choi yanked her drive in the left woods off of the 18th tee – her first missed fairway of the day – and looked toast in her bid for her first ever LPGA win. But Choi punched out, laid up, and hit her fourth shot into the par-5 18th eight feet right of the hole to give herself a shot. She still needed to avoid Ha Na Jang making her 10-foot birdie at the last and needed to hole her par to force a playoff. She got both, and when Jang airmailed her third shot over on the first playoff hole and then raced her chip past, she had her first career win in hand.
“I missed my tee shot,” Choi said, “but I don’t have confidence in win, like I don’t have experience of win, so it’s really a little bit nervous. I tried to focus, and my father said, ‘it’s okay. You like draw hole. Try to be patient and make par.’ So I tried to be patient and focus on just trying to make a par. So I made a par, so excited!”
It didn’t always look like Choi’s though when Ko – playing out in the group ahead – stormed into the lead on the back nine with four birdies in a front-nine 4-under-par 30, but Ko played the back nine in even par and wasn’t able to birdie the last on her way to a back-nine even-par 37 that left the defending champion one shot out of the playoff.
“I played really solid the front nine, and that’s all I could really do,” Ko said. “I know it would have been great if I could continue that on the back nine, but it just wasn’t going. 4-under is I think a good score at the end of the day.”
Shanshan Feng joined Ko in a tie for third. Hyo Joo Kim, Brittany Lang, and Q Baek all tied for fifth.