In her 157th start on the LPGA Tour, Paula Reto finally became a champion. The 32-year-old from South Africa, who now makes her home in southern Florida, knocked in a two-putt par on No. 18 at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club to capture the 2022 CP Women’s Open. Reto, a nine-year LPGA Tour veteran, finished at -19 overall, one stroke ahead of Nelly Korda and Hye-Jin Choi and two strokes clear of Lydia Ko.
“I'm really, really excited and just proud of myself for being able to stick through the shots and the routines. Sometimes I find that's really hard to do, especially if you know you have only a few holes left,” said Reto. “But I was really nervous, especially I started pulling a few shots and I told myself, okay, just stay in the moment and breathe. You go through all those things that you think will help.”
With the win, Reto became the season’s second winner from South Africa, joining Ashleigh Buhai (AIG Women’s Open), and is the fourth LPGA Tour winner from South Africa overall, joining Sally Little (15 wins), Buhai (one win) and Lee-Anne Pace (one win). Reto is the eighth Rolex First-Time Winner of the 2022 LPGA Tour season and the fourth consecutive first-time winner; the last time the LPGA Tour had four consecutive first-time winners was 2005.
Reto’s Canadian success started on Thursday, when she shot a personal-best 9-under 62 to set the course and tournament scoring record, as well as tie the low round of the LPGA Tour season. She stayed in contention all week and started the final day one stroke off the lead. Her morning was pure adrenaline, with Reto making the turn carrying a four-stroke lead on the strength of five front-nine birdies.
But on the back nine, she admitted that the nerves came out and the birdies stopped flowing. “I started putting on the brakes, and that's probably not what you want to do,” Reto said. “I haven't really much been in this position, and I was just trying to control myself and be in the moment.”
Reto bogeyed the par-4-14th to drop to -19, with former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Korda surging in the group ahead of her. Korda holed out for eagle at No. 12 to start her rally and pulled within a stroke of Reto with back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16. She lipped out a prime chance for a tying birdie at No. 17 and after finding the greenside bunker on her approach to No. 18, Korda’s two-putt for par gave Reto the room she needed to take her first title.
“Still need to tighten up some loose ends I feel like, maybe improve on a couple different areas, but that's golf. That's what I love about it,” said Korda. “I feel like you can constantly improve. Every girl out here is improving. Paula played amazing this week and she went from, I don't know if she even had her card last year to being a champion. So anyone can win, and that's what's great about golf. Anyone that tees it up has a chance to win, because all the girls and all the guys are so good."
Choi started the day in a tie for the lead but could not get any momentum until late, opening with 14 straight pars before birdieing two of the last four holes. Ko tied the day’s low round with a bogey-free 63, but was too far behind at the start of the day to truly put any pressure on Reto.
Canadian Brooke Henderson, who entered the tournament with the weight of expectations on her shoulders, shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday and finished at -5 overall tied for 49th. Despite the lackluster week, Henderson delighted the massive galleries that gathered at Ottawa Hunt, cheering wildly for her every shot.
“I didn't have my best stuff this week, but they didn't care and they were there with me every single shot,” said Henderson, who grew up less than an hour outside Ottawa and holds an honorary membership at Ottawa Hunt. “I'm going to sign a bunch of autographs and take some pictures now because I love them so much and I just can't believe they're out here in full force.”