(Reuters) - Chella Choi, with her father working as her caddie, ended a seven-year wait for a first LPGA title by beating fellow South Korean Jang Ha-na in a playoff for the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio on Sunday.
Choi, 24, parred the first extra hole, the par-five 18th, where overnight leader Jang ran up a bogey six after her approach ended up in rough behind the green.
”I can’t believe it,“ a jubilant Choi, ranked 40th in the world, told reporters after the breakthrough win in her seventh full-time season on the U.S. circuit. ”This is really good. It’s my dream come true.
”I work with my father eight years (seven on the LPGA Tour) and somebody said like, ‘Why I don’t win, just for my caddie?’ So I‘m so excited with my father.
“The first time (to) win is hard, but second and third is easier. Hopefully this (is) turning point for me,” said Choi, who began playing golf at the age of 11 and credits her coach Jae Jang and father as the greatest influences on her career.
Choi and LPGA rookie Jang had finished 72 regulation holes on 14-under 270, Choi closing with a flawless five-under 66 at Highland Meadows Golf Club while Jang, her playing partner, carded a 68.
Defending champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand briefly led by two shots on the front nine before losing momentum on the way to a 67 and a tie for third at 13 under with China’s Shanshan Feng (67).
American Brittany Lang signed off with a bogey-free 68 to share fifth place at 11 under with Koreans Kim Hyo-joo (67) and Q Baek (70).
World number two Ko, two strokes off the pace overnight, reeled off four birdies in the first eight holes to surge two ahead before being caught at the top.
A playoff for the title looked likely when Ko, Jang, Choi and Feng were tied for the lead at 13 under with the final group just two holes from finishing in regulation.
Jang and Choi birdied the par-five 17th to edge a stroke in front but neither player was able to birdie the 18th.
“I played really solid the front nine, and that’s all I could really do,” Ko said of her bid to defend a second LPGA title this season. The 18-year-old retained the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry