ONEIDA, Wis. – Katherine Kirk won the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic on Sunday, matching Ashleigh Buhai with a birdie on the final hole for a one-stroke victory.
Four strokes ahead of Buhai entering the round, Kirk made a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th for a 2-under 70. She finished at 22-under 266 in the first year event at Thornberry Creek – the Oneida Nation-owned resort near Green Bay.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to play extra holes, I’ll tell you that, because I don’t know how it would have turned out,” Kirk said. “To make that putt was huge. I had a good line on it, obviously, and I’m just so happy. … Ashleigh played great all day. I put the pressure on her. Pretty fun finish there. I knew I had to make it.”
The 35-year-old Australian won her third LPGA Tour title and first in 152 starts since the 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic. She also won the 2008 Canadian Women’s Open.
“Winning out here is hard, and it’s a lot harder than when I first did it, that’s for sure,” Kirk said. “We’ve got so much talent out here now, it’s definitely hard to win. I think, too, I’m like the 15th-oldest player on tour, so certainly if you’re looking at age, it’s more in favor of the younger generation these days. Hard work pays off. That’s all I can say. I’m grateful for the opportunity to still be playing, and I still love it, and I’ve got a great team of people behind me, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”
Kirk earned $300,000 and secured a spot next week in the U.S. Women’s Open.
“Just winning is totally unexpected, and obviously getting in the Open is unexpected,” Kirk said. “I’ve got to scramble and get a flight out there now and get my caddie out there and get accommodations. … It’s always fun to play in majors, and I’m carrying probably the best form into a major than I ever have before for me. That’s going to be exciting. I just hope I can have enough energy to get me through the week.”
She had six birdies and four bogeys Sunday after opening with rounds of 68, 63 and 65.
Buhai, from South Africa, shot a 67.
“We both played great this week,” Buhai said about Kirk. “Today, 5 under, no bogeys. I had three lip-outs on the back nine, but I hit the putts and the shots that I had to just keep hitting. Finally on 18, it was just a little close, and enough to think maybe I could hole the putt, but the two shots Katherine hit on 16 and 18 to work it around trees were fantastic, so all good to her.”
South Korea’s Sei Young Kim was third at 20 under after a 63.
“I have good momentum,” Kim said. “I’m very looking forward to next week, so exciting. I can’t wait for next week.”
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum shot a career-best 62 – also the best round of the week – to finish fourth at 19 under.
“Tee shot pretty good and also putting very good,” Phatlum said. “Like no three-putt, and then can make eight birdies and one eagle. Really fantastic.”