WOBURN - Lizette Salas, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States wanting to make a better life for their family, had a chance to win one of golf’s major championships on Sunday.
Martha and Ramon Salas weren’t able to make the trip to this year’s AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf Club, but were undoubtedly watching from back home in Azusa, California. And as Salas stood over a final birdie opportunity on the 72nd hole she had just one thought in her mind.
"You got this. You're made for this," Salas told herself.
It’s a mantra she’s repeated throughout her life as she became the first in her family to attend college, pursued her dream as a professional golfer and became a first-time winner on the LPGA Tour in 2014.
Salas needed the birdie at the par 4, 18th hole in order to break out of a tie at the top of the leaderboard with Hinako Shibuno, the 20-year-old JLPGA rookie who rebounded from a double bogey and bogey on her opening stretch to tie Salas. She rolled her birdie attempt from five feet. It caught the right side of the cup and lipped out.
It would be the difference maker.
At the 72nd hole, Shibuno drained a birdie putt from long range to better Salas by one.
“Knowing my family was pulling for me today, I hope they are still proud,” Salas choked out, tears streaming down her face. “I could feel them.”
For Salas, every other putt she looked at seemed to drop on Sunday. She rolled in eight birdie putts, offset by a single bogey, to card a 7-under par, 65 for the low round of the day. Her runner-up at Woburn Golf Club is her best finish in a major championship and her second in the last 12 months.
“It's been one of those years, and to finally keep knocking on the door, keep knocking on the door, but it's fine. I'll be back.”
While Shibuno would ultimately be the player to beat, it was Salas’ playing partner, Jin Young Ko, with whom she battled throughout the day. Ko is currently the top-ranked player in the world and as Salas went low, Ko kept pace, matching Salas with six birdies of her own ‘en route to a 66.
“Playing alongside our No. 1 player in the world, I knew I had to come up with something, and something awesome,” Salas said. “To pull off a 65 on a Sunday at a major like this, it's pretty quite awesome. Pretty proud of myself.”
Salas won’t walk away with the trophy, but will take away quite a bit of confidence heading into the Solheim Cup, where she’ll be making her fourth appearance as a member of Team U.S.A at Gleneagles in September.
“This is all great momentum going into Solheim, and this is great for my confidence,” Salas said. “I just turned 30 a couple weeks ago and I just feel like I'm kind of reborn, and I'm just happy to be in this position.”