It took 75 holes, but Andrea Lee captured her first professional title on Sunday at the Casino Del Sol Golf Classic with a par on the third hole of a playoff against Lucy Li. Both players finished 18-under at Sewailo Golf Club, as Lee carded a final-round 69 and Li recorded six birdies for a 4-under 68.
“It feels amazing,” Lee said with a beaming smile. “After everything I’ve been through the last couple of years, it’s really special and to have my dad [James] on the bag makes it all the better. I’m so grateful for the journey and what it took to get to this point.”
Lee opened the final round with birdie on No. 1 before surrendering bogey at No. 3. She responded with birdies on Nos. 5, 7 and 8 to make the turn with a three-stroke advantage at 18-under par.
“Still had the entire back nine left to play, so was going about my business and not thinking about what other players were doing,” said Lee.
Bogeys by the 54-hole leader on Nos. 12 and 13 dropped her into a four-way tie for the lead of -16 with Li, Emma Broze and Daniela Darquea. Li capitalized with birdie on No. 14 to jump out front and matching birdies on No. 15 kept Lee within one of Li.
The drama continued at the par-4 17th. Li found the hazard on her approach, but chipped in to save par. Moments later, Lee dropped in a 35-foot putt for birdie.
“It was just a crazy hole for both of us. She put it in the water and I hit mine to the top tier, while the pin was on the bottom tier,” Lee said. “I told my dad, ‘I don’t even know how I’m going to stop this thing.’ I just barely tapped it, looked good the whole way and I can’t believe it went in.
“I tried to see what line to start it on and how far left I needed to aim for it to trickle down the hill and hopefully stop within three feet. That’s really all I was looking for, an easy two-putt par was my wishful thinking. It caught the right corner and went in the hole, which was crazy.”
After finding water off the tee on No. 18 in the third round, Lee made sure to find land all four times she played the hole on Sunday.
“It got really gusty in the playoff and was straight downwind off the tee,” said Lee, the winningest player in Stanford University women’s golf history. “For our second shots into a tucked, back-right hole location over the bunker, it was tough for both of us to get even a good look at birdie. I thought par would win. My gameplan was the same, to hit a 5-wood in the fairway and have a pitching or A-wedge in.”
Despite being competitors in Tucson, Ariz., Lee and Li are good friends. It’s a relationship that goes back to the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
“I call her ‘Little Lee.’ She’s like my little sister. I’ve known her for a long time,” Lee said laughingly. “Our first U.S. Women’s Open, I was like ‘What the heck, there’s a little 11-year-old in the field?’ We played Curtis Cup together as teammates. A lot of good memories.
“She kept me on my toes and made a run for it on the back nine. I just had to keep up with her to win.”
Daniela Darquea (69) finished solo third, while Brianna Do signed for a bogey-free, 7-under 65 to share fourth with Emma Broze (67). Tournament sponsor exemption and amateur Abbey Schutte (82) ended in 68th, while Tucson native Krystal Quihuis (75) finished in a tie for 64th.
QUICK QUOTES FROM LUCY LI
“It was definitely really fun. Me and Andrea are really good friends, so it probably made it a little easier on both of us. I haven’t really been in contention in a while. It felt good to be in that position again and I think I did the best I could, especially coming down the stretch on the back nine. A couple of the pars at the end were a little iffy, but I was just happy to be in the position.”
“It’s all part of the process. There’s not much I can be upset about. I really tried my best and sometimes it’s just a couple of feet here and there. That’s how it goes with golf.”