In a thrilling, keep-you-on- the-edge-of-your-seat ending, Yan Liu walked away from the Four Winds Invitational a champion for the first time. Although she shot 2-over on the day, Liu made birdie on No. 18 to join a three-person playoff.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed,” said Liu. “I was very happy [about the playoff] because on No. 17, I got a bogey. The chance to play in a playoff was awesome.”
Liu defeated Gabby Lemieux and Kiira Riihijarvi with another birdie on No. 18, chipping from just short of the green to an easy three-foot putt for birdie.
The China native came into the day with no expectations for the round. She did, however, have a big goal on her mind – make it into the top-10. The win earned her that goal, bumping her from No. 27 to No. 7.
“I’m feeling amazing,” said Liu. “I’m just proud of myself for never giving up. The season is not finished yet, so I need to keep working.”
A big change to Liu’s game this week was adding a caddie to her side. She says he was a key part to staying patient throughout the week.
“My caddie always told me to believe in myself and my putting,” said Liu. “So I did it. He helped me a lot.”
Falling just short of victory were Lemieux and Riihijarvi, who still played good final rounds of even-par and four-under respectively.
Lemieux carded four birdies on the front nine, but started to feel the pressure, recording three bogeys on the back nine.
“With 18 holes of being in the lead group, I’ve never been in that position ever in my professional career,” said Lemieux. “There were a lot of nerves, but I told myself one shot at a time, take it nice and slow and joke around as much as I can.”
The 2nd place finish is her best to date on her professional career. She also takes the top performance into an off week before heading to two events near her home in Idaho.
“It feels great,” said Lemieux. “I think this is a good momentum boost for the next two tournaments. I’m going to stay light and happy, and hopefully, maybe something will come out of it.”
Riihijarvi carded six birdies on the day, and says she felt relaxed on South Bend Country Club’s course. The Finn didn’t know she would be in a playoff position until the final putts dropped in regulation but was already happy with a T2 finish.
“It feels really good,” said Riihijarvi. “I did look at the leaderboards, but I wasn’t really paying attention to how I was playing compared to it. I was just trying to play golf.”
Riihijarvi looks forward to the off week and next Epson Tour event, the Circling Raven Championship in Worley, Idaho.
“It feels really nice that there’s an off week,” said Riihijarvi. “I’m really excited, I haven’t been back to my home in a couple of months, so I’m really excited to get to go back home for a little. I played the Idaho tournament last year, and I really enjoyed it. I’m excited to go there.”
Rounding out the top-5 were four players at 6-under. WeiWei Zhang, Klara Spilkova, Pinyada Kuvanun and Selena Costabile shared fourth place.
Katelyn Sisk (-4, T12) on her 6-under round:
“I think mentally I was more relaxed today than the first two days. My swings felt really good the last few days, and I stayed confident with that and trusted that putts would fall, and they did today.”
Michelle Piyapattra (-3, T21) on her last round of her professional career:
“I’ve been getting sentimental all week with the last round, the last practice round, last pro-am. I’m happy with where I’m leaving it, and I’m really just going to miss the people. I’ll still get to play, but maybe not in this stressful situation.”
Pinyada Kuvanun (-6, T4) on a top finish:
“This is my first tournament playing really well. I feel like there was a little pressure, but I was happy with the result I had today.”