Courtesy: Ali Kicklighter, Symetra Tour Media
Symetra Tour rookie Kim Kaufman played like a seasoned veteran during the final round of the Island Resort Championship and outlasted a one-playoff with Mitsuki Katahira to secure her first professional victory.
Playing in only her third event on the Symetra Tour, Kaufman fired the round of the day on Sunday at Sweetgrass Golf Club that included five birdies and one bogey.
Kaufman wasted little time getting into the red numbers during the final round with a birdie at the opening hole. The recent Texas Tech University graduate then bogeyed the par-4 fifth before recording another birdie at the par-4 eighth.
â??I started off with a birdie on the first hole which I thought was great,â?? said Kaufman. â??Then I hit one in the water, and the rest of the front-nine I made a bunch of pars, but I knew girls were coming backwards. I knew I just had to hang in there.â??
As Kaufman made her way to the back-nine, the two-time All-American was able to prevail amidst windy conditions with birdies at the par-4 14th and back-to-back birdies at Nos. 17 and 18.
â??I made a birdie on the short par-4 14th then made two 20-footers on 17 and 18 right at the end,â?? Kaufman said. â??I stayed patient, and I think it paid off.â??
Playing in the final group of the day, second year Symetra Tour member Mitsuki Katahira never gave up in Sundayâ??s round. After carding three birdies in her opening nine, Katahira began to stage a comeback after holing out for eagle at the par-4 10th.
â??I looked at the scoreboard and knew I still had a chance; I was 2-strokes behind,â?? said Katahira. â??I was like okay, just try to make birdie, then it went in on the second shot. I just tried to let it motivate me and keep going.â??
With both players finishing the tournament at 3-under-par, the duo headed back to the par-5 18th for the first playoff hole.
The advantage immediately swung in Kaufmanâ??s favor after Katahira hit her third shot in a fairway bunker. With Kaufman safely on the green in regulation, Katahiraâ??s nerves began racing as she hit her third shot over the green.
â??The third shot it went in the bunker,â?? Katahira said. â??I was really afraid to chunk it, so I kind of hit it thin and it kind of took off. It wasnâ??t an easy shot, and I was a little disappointed in my chip shot, but I need to learn how to calm myself.â??
Faced with a difficult chip, Katahira hit it over the green, forcing her to chip from the fringe for the second time. The Tokyo, Japan native calmly knocked in her 15-foot bogey putt, but it wasnâ??t enough for the victory as Kaufman calmly two-putted for par to become the eighth first-time winner on tour this year.
â??She kind of made it easy for me,â?? Kaufman said. â??I was just thinking I need to two-putt, but at the same time it kind of made it a difficult task, so just tried to stay calm and just keep doing what I was doing.â??
Kimâ??s previous best finish on the Symetra Tour came at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic where she was T10. According to the Clark, S.D. native, her first victory on the Road to the LPGA still hasnâ??t yet sunk in.
â??It feels good, but I donâ??t think itâ??s sunk in yet,â?? Kaufman said. â??It feels great! I couldnâ??t have asked for a better start.â??