Vu triumphs in playoff to win maiden major title at Chevron Championship
AMERICAN Lilia Vu claimed the maiden Major title of her career with a dramatic playoff victory over compatriot Angel Yin in The Chevron Championship.
Vu kept her nerve to prevail in an exciting finish to the opening Major of the 2023 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) season, played at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas.
Previously known as the ANA Inspiration and before that the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tournament had moved away from Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, California, for the first time since its inception in 1972.
The 25-year-old Vu hoisted the Dinah Shore trophy after leaping into the lake next to the 18th green of Carlton Woods’ Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, continuing the pond-jump tradition made famous at Mission Hills.
“I think the emotions were high and just adrenaline, got to jump into that pond,” said Vu, who pocketed US$765,000 from the US$5.1 million total purse.
This was Vu’s fourth appearance in The Chevron Championship following a missed cut in 2022, finishing as low amateur with a T40 performance in 2018, and a T46 result in 2014 when she won a junior qualifying event to get in at age 13.
Vu had started the final round four shots back of Yin and another American, Allisen Corpuz, both aiming to become Rolex First-Time Winners. Conditions were tough with grey skies and winds of up to 20mph, and dangerous weather delayed play for 50 minutes at 9am.
As most of the contenders struggled, Vu played steadily and closed with back-to-back birdies for an excellent 68 and the clubhouse lead on 10-under-par.
While Corpuz fell off the pace early on, Yin kept herself in the mix and forced the playoff when she birdied the par-five 18th after missing a 30-foot eagle putt.
Both golfers found the fairway off the tee on the first playoff hole, but Yin pulled her second shot into the lake while Vu overshot the green.
After Yin took a penalty drop and found the green in four, Vu chipped to around 15 feet and made the birdie putt to take the title.
Yin’s runner-up performance tied her career-best finish in a Major at the 2019 US Women’s Open.
Turning professional in 2019, Vu earned her LPGA card with a T27 finish in Q-Series but had a poor debut season with only one cut in nine starts.
She regrouped and won three times on the Epson Tour in 2021 and followed up with a solid 2022.
In February this year, Vu broke through for her first LPGA victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Vu paid tribute to her late grandfather, who helped her get through the rough start to her pro career.
“The reason I’m here is because of my grandpa. I was just in such a bad place with my golf game. Just everything was life or death. I just saw everybody that I’ve competed with being successful, and I just compared myself all the time. The last thing he told me was to play my best,” shared the former UCLA standout.
“He’s in the hospital, thinking of me and my tournament. That’s something that I think
about a lot. Even today, I was getting really upset on the course, I just had to remind me,
like grandpa is with you, and he’d be really disappointed if you were getting upset like this,” added Vu.
American Nelly Korda eagled the last hole for a closing 71 and outright third place on nineunder-par 279, her fourth top-five finish this season and third straight top-three in The Chevron Championship.
Former World No 1 Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand tied for fourth on eight-under-par with the Korean duo of A Lim Kim and Amy Yang, Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela and Corpuz.
Another Thai player who impressed was teenage sensation Eila Galitsky, who showcased her immense potential with an impressive T28 finish on one-over-par 289 (70-75-74-70) to claim low amateur honours by three shots from American Amari Avery.
The long-hitting Galitsky had earned her place in the championship by winning the 2023 Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship at Singapore Island Country Club in early March.
Malaysian ladies’ number one Kelly Tan showed that she is on the right track to remedy a slow start to the season, despite missing the cut by two shots. The 29-year-old noted that her second round 71 following an opening 76 provided cause for optimism.
“My coach Gary (Gilchrist) was with me this week to work on a couple of things and I felt a lot better. I played with much more confidence on Friday. I’ll keep doing what we worked on and build confidence each day,” said Tan, who has now missed the cut in four successive events.