Kelly Tan and Matilda Castren met while the two were playing on the Epson Tour in 2018. Sharing car rides between events, chatting at the clubhouse, and playing together, the two formed a close friendship due to similar struggles they shared on the course. Four years later, they are best friends and runners-up of the 2022 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
“If you were to wind back the clock and tell us, ‘You guys are going to be playing this tournament and you're going to finish second,’ I think it would be really hard for both of us to believe because we were really just at the lowest point of our careers,” Tan said. “It feels really good that we got out of that hole and were able to compete at such high level and finish second this week, proving to us that we could do it.”
The pair shot an 8-under 62 in Saturday’s final round to finish the Dow GLBI at -21. Just 2-under on the day heading into the back nine, Team Fin-Asia kicked it into high gear, shooting six more birdies coming home.
Heading into 18, the two were tied for second with veterans Maria Fassi and Stacy Lewis. But a share of the prize wasn’t good enough for Castren. Their last birdie came on the final hole, thanks to a spectacular 9-iron tee-shot from Castren that nearly found the bottom of the cup.
“I actually told my caddie on 17 that I wanted a solo second,” Castren said. “He told me, ‘Better stick it close on 18 and you won't have to worry about it’ and I did. It was actually close to going in, so it was just a very cool experience and cool moment for us. You just can't ask for anything better on your last hole. We knew we had a birdie walking up to the green. We had our walk-up song. It was a great feeling that we'll remember forever.”
The second-place finish is the best of Tan’s career. Previously, her best finish was a T4 result at the 2014 Dana Open. Castren won her first LPGA Tour event last year at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship and has been playing what she called “really consistent, some of my best golf” this season. Both Castren and Tan believe that their friendship has contributed to all the successes they have had in the last few years, both on and off the course.
“The fact that we went through adversity and now that we have a good finish, you can taste the bittersweet feeling,” Tan said, who will have Castren by her side when she marries Dustin Lattery in December. “I'm super glad. There's nobody else I would choose to share that with but her, my best friend and my maid of honor.”