The final round of the Island Resort Championship has come to a close, and the Epson Tour has added another new face to the 2023 champions list. Tsai Cheng Tseng made a charge down the stretch to capture her first career Epson Tour victory in only her second start. Tseng entered the week as a non-member of the Epson Tour. Now as the week comes to a close, Tseng will move into the top 20 in the Race for the Card standings after collecting her $33,750 paycheck.
The final round was full of birdies, and from the last group of the day, there was a total of 21 birdies between them. Tseng was the only player to go bogey-free of the three, which was the difference. The unblemished 65 (-7) was highlighted by a string of four-straight birdies on the back nine that would give her the lead heading up the 18th fairway. A two-putt par would be all the 23-year-old would need to take home her first victory on the Epson Tour.
"I started pretty slow," said Tseng. "I wasn't making birdies early like the other two players. I was just trying to slowly catch them, and then the four-straight birdies helped a lot."
Tseng already has a professional victory under her belt, winning the 2022 SAMPO Ladies Open in Taiwan. Although it is not a victory on the Epson Tour, Tseng had an advantage over her playing partners, who have yet to get their first professional win. The experience of winning helped Tseng as she played the final stretch, with her string of four birdies coming in the last five holes.
"I won in my first event as a pro," said Tseng. "Holding a trophy here, though, and being on the top with all these great players, means so much to me."
The 36-hole leader, Auston Kim, got off to a hot start, making the turn with a 31 (-5) and looked to be in control with nine holes to play. A double bogey on No. 11 would bring her back to the field, with Tseng now within striking distance. Kim showed resiliency, bouncing back from both of her over-par holes by making a birdie on the next hole. The runner-up finish was good enough to move Kim into the top 10 in the Race for the Card, all the way to No. 9 at the midway point in the season. Kim will head into the last half of the season with her head held high.
"I made three doubles this week. I am not going to lie; it sucks to make three doubles when you are near the lead," said Kim. "Getting runner-up with three doubles and a couple of mistakes throughout the week was very encouraging. I can leave this week with my head high, but Lorena (Tsai Cheng Tseng) just had a fantastic round today, so props to her.”
Natasha Andrea Oon was the final player in the last group of the day. Oon already has two runner-up finishes in 2023, adding a third to her impressive resume. The rookie put together three solid rounds but fell one-shot short of the playoff. Oon currently is No. 2 on the Race for the Card standings and added $18,521 to her total as she tries to track down the top spot. Despite another runner-up finish, Oon is still confident her time will come.
"I had such a good score today I am not even mad with myself," said Oon. "There were some putts out there that I could have made, but with the rain and stuff, it was a little weird. I am really happy that I played this well. Going into the next event, just knowing that I have been in contention all year, I feel like I could win soon."
Rounding out the top five at the Island Resort Championship are Becca Huffer (4th, -11) and Hira Naveed (5th, -10), respectively.
Isabella Fierro (-7, T11) on a five-under final round:
"It was just a lot of good feelings throughout the round, I made little mistakes but when I did, I kept my head cool, so it was fun. We had good weather this morning and we beat the rain in which was a nice perk."
Haylee Harford (-7, T11) on a strong finish after winning the Colorado Open:
"The Colorado Open was a big confidence booster. The field is so strong every year and it is just a fun tournament to play. I think I had less expectations for myself at the Colorado Open, I just wanted to have fun and ended up playing really well. The good play then carried over into this week and I was able to have a strong performance."
Jessica Porvasnik (-7, T11) on her bouncing back after a disappointing second round:
"Yesterday was just one of those days that was the exact opposite to how the course played in my first round. It is firm, fast, and windy so it took some adjusting. I finished strong with three birdies coming in on my second round and today I just got out of the gate pretty steady. I had a few hiccups here and there but overall; it was a good day."