Gaby Lopez Wins Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions After Seven Playoff Holes

It’s Gaby Lopez’s (over)timeto shine…

The 26-year-old Mexican professional golfer, who’d already battled five extra holes into darkness against Nasa Hataoka without producing a champion a day earlier, returned Monday morning to earn a victory.

Gaby Lopez

The early wake-up call and extra golf was worth it for Lopez, who rolled in a 30-foot putt for birdie to prevail on the seventh playoff hole on Monday and capture the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.

It was the second LPGAtitle for Lopez, who 14 months ago became only the second player from Mexico to win on tour, joining World Golf Hall of Famemember Lorena Ochoa. She earned $180,000 for the victory.

The elite field featured 26 LPGA tournament champions who’d won tournaments in the last two seasons.

This was the LPGA’s fourth-longest playoff. The longest was 10 holes at the 1972 Corpus Christi Civitan Open, where Jo Ann Prenticebeat Hall of Famers Sandra Palmerand Kathy Whitworth.

Lopez and Hataoka wound up playing the difficult 197-yard 18th hole at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlandoeight times over two days, with two birdies from Lopez the difference.

Lopez birdied from 18 feet on her final hole of regulation Sunday to earn a spot in a playoff alongside Hataoka and Inbee Park, who was eliminated on the third playoff hole.

Hataoka, who had made a deft up-and-down from 30 yards for par to extend the playoff to a seventh hole as play resumed Monday, had the edge on the final hole after hitting a 4-hybrid that rode a slope along the right side of the green and curled to 12 feet from the hole.

But Lopez, whose ball barely made the putting surface, went first, her putt up the hill slowing and tumbling into the cup on its last rotation. Hataoka, ranked sixth in the world, made a poor stroke, pulling her birdie attempt left.

“I proved to myself that I can win in any situation,” Lopez said. “My first win was in the lead. My second win was coming from behind. And being able to put all those moments together and recall them while I’m walking on the fairway here and try to stay patient. That’s what I proved to myself the most, my ability to stay in the moment.”

The victory qualifies Lopez for the 2021 Tournament of Champions

Carlota Ciganda Wins $1 Million Aon Risk Reward Challenge Prize

Carlota Cigandais the $1 million dollar woman…

The 29-year-old Spanish LPGA golfer has won the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge and the $1 million prize.

Carlota Ciganda

The goal of the season-long competition was to illustrate how the world’s best golfers are among the world’s best strategic decision makers. The competition measured the performance of LPGA Tourand PGA Tourgolfers on a series of challenging holes across various tournaments. Players took their best two scores from each hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the regular season.

Ciganda was 37 under par for 44 challenge holes played, giving her a winning score of -0.841. Ariya Jutanugarn(-0.833) was second, followed by Lee-Anne Pace(-0.731), Brooke Henderson(-0.720) and In-Kyung Kim(-0.714).

For Ciganda, an eight-year player on the LPGA Tour, the end of the season provided her with the most crucial risk-reward situations. Although she was a leading contender from the start of the competition, it wasn’t until the end of the season, at the Buick LPGA Shanghai and the BMW Ladies Championship, where she stretched her lead with eagle-birdie scores on challenge holes.

“I played very consistent the whole year. I love being aggressive. I love taking the risk. I love that,” Ciganda said at the CME Group Tour Championship, the final tournament of the season. “That’s golf for me. That’s par-5 going on two, going for the green. That’s what I love the most.”

In August, PGA golfer Brooks Koepka won the inaugural trophy and the $1 million prize. Both Koepka and Ciganda were awarded equal payments for their accomplishments in the challenge, a rarity between the PGA and LPGA Tours, which differ greatly in prize money.

“It’s an unbelievable prize,” Ciganda said. “It’s really amazing finally to get recognized with the same amount of money. I’m the winner, but women’s golf is the winner today. The LPGA is the winner. We’re all winners.”

In 2019, LPGA players competed for a record $70.2 million in total prize money, up $7.2 million from 2016. This week, at the CME Group Tour Championship, the entire field will compete for the $5 million purse. And, the $1.5 million winner’s check will be the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf. (For context, Brooks Koepka won nearly $2 million after clinching the 2019 PGA Championshipat Bethpage Black. The total purse was $11 million.)

“We couldn’t be more proud of this outcome, and maybe most proud of the equal prize money across the LPGA and PGA Tour,” Andy WeitzAonChief Marketing Officer, said. “It’s really great to see the level of consistency and high performance across both tours, and to see these players come out ahead at the end was incredibly exciting.”

Ciganda will compete at the final LPGA tournament of the 2019 season, the CME Group Tour Championship. Ciganda is currently ranked No. 14 in Women’s World Golf Rolex Rankings.

Gaby Lopez Wins First-Ever LPGA Tour Event at China’s Blue Bay Golf Club

Gaby Lopez is officially on the leaderboard…

The 25-year-old Mexican professional golfer.won her first LPGA Tour event with a 1-over 73 to finish one shot ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn at the Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Club tournament in China.

Gaby Lopez

Lopez had bogeys on the last two holes on Saturday and almost let the title slip away. She finished at 8-under 280.

Playing in a group with Lopez, No. 1-ranked Jutanugarn had a birdie on the final hole to also finish on 73.

Celine Boutier shot a 66 and finished two shots off the lead.

Lopez is the first winner from Mexico since Lorena Ochoa, a driving force for the game in that Latin American country.

“I mean, she’s been my inspiration my entire life,” Lopez said of Ochoa. “That’s why I’m actually a professional golfer.”

Ochoa was the LPGA‘s top-ranked golfer for several years until she retired in 2010. She won 27 LPGA Tour events.

Lopez said she was also thinking of her grandfather, Jose Lopez, who died recently.

“I always told him that I was going to give him my first trophy,” Lopez said. “Sadly I didn’t, but he was with me all week long, and I couldn’t be more lucky, more fortunate to have him still alive in me.”

Jutanugarn played the last two rounds with Lopez and was happy for her — even in defeat.

“She did a great job last two days,” Jutanugarn said, knowing Lopez was “nervous sometimes.”

Lopez turned 25 on Friday and had a hole-in-one in the third round, which turned out to be the difference.

The tournament wrapped up five straight weeks of play for the LPGA in Asia.

 

Maria Torres: First Puerto Rican Player to Earn Full Status on the LPGA Tour

Maria Torres has earned her ticket… And, she’s made it into the history books in the process.

The 22-year-old Puerto Rican golfer earned a full tour card for next season at this past week’s the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Maria Torres

The final qualifier took place over the course of five days, and the top 20 finishers in the field of 165 players earned full cards.

Torres, an amateur, clinched the final spot by winning a three-hole, aggregate stroke-play playoff.

Torres, a recent graduate of the University of Florida, becomes the first player from Puerto Rico to earn full status on the LPGA.

It’s so amazing. It’s all still sinking in, like, holy moly, this is crazy! But it’s so exciting,” says Torres in an interview with ESPNw. “I worked so hard, and I’ve been dreaming of this since I was little, and now I’m a professional on the LPGA. It’s just amazing [laughs] and I’m kind of speechless when I talk about it. But I’m excited to go back to Gainesville and see my teammates and then go home and see my family and share this excitement with them.

Torres, who was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck and witnessed the storm’s aftermath before leaving her family behind, had to mentally prepare for qualifying tournament.

It was really sad, but when I was talking to my parents, they said, ‘You have to leave, and you have focus on Q-school,’” says Torres. “They encouraged me to keep practicing and to stay focused on the end goal. It was still sad to see because you want to help in whatever [way] you can, but this has helped me appreciate what I have, and the support I have, and everything else. I’m not taking this moment for granted at all.”

 Torres now hopes her participation in the LPGA Tour will inspire more Puerto Ricans to go after their dreams. 

By teaching kids that if you work hard, anything is possible. It’s not just about golf. I want them to believe in their dreams and go after what they want,” says Torres. “But I would love to see golf become more popular.”

Ochoa Heading Back to the Links at Her Namesake Tournament in Mexico

Lorena Ochoa is returning to the links…

The 35-year-old retired Mexican professional golfer has decided to play in her LPGA Tour event in Mexico, but only as part of a tournament exhibition,

Lorena Ochoa

Ochoa will play the Lorena Ochoa Match Play on May 4-7, her first time playing her namesake tournament since 2012.

Ochoa, who was the top-ranked female golfer in the world for 158 consecutive weeks and total weeks, will be playing in Hall of Fame exhibitions during the weekend of the tournament.

Her brother, Alejandro Ochoa, said she did not want to be specific about her participation when speaking to a small group of reporters at Chapultepec Golf Club because the LPGA Tour had not publicized the Hall of Fame matches and his sister didn’t want to speak ahead of any announcement.

The LPGA Tour is expected to reveal details of the exhibition this week.

Ochoa said she has been practicing a few days a week and said she would practice every day in advance of her appearance at the Lorena Ochoa Match Play.

Ochoa retired in 2010 when she was No. 1 in the world. She recently had married and wanted to start a family and work on her foundation. She last competed against LPGA Tour competition at the 2012 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Because she had not played 10 full years on the LPGA Tour, she was not eligible for the LPGA Hall of Fame. But after a change in the voting process for the World Golf Hall of Fame — it is now done by a committee instead of a large panel that included golf writers — Ochoa was selected for induction this year.

Ochoa compiled her 27 LPGA Tour victories in a six-year span in which she rose to No. 1 in women’s golf. She also won two majors — the 2007 Women’s British Open the first time it was held at St. Andrews, and the 2008 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Ciganda Wins LPGA Lorena Ochoa Invitational

Carlota Ciganda is a woman on top… of the leaderboard.

The 26-year-old Spanish golfer turned her hot start into a four-under par 68 on Sunday and a two-shot triumph in the LPGA Lorena Ochoa Invitational, her second victory in two months.

Carlota Ciganda

An eagle at the par-five second hole was followed by four birdies with two bogeys as Ciganda built a 13-under par total of 275.

That put her two clear of England’s Jodie Ewart Shadoff, France’s Karine Icher, Australian Sarah Jane Smith and Americans Austin Ernst and Angela Stanford.

Ernst, who took a one-shot lead into the final round in pursuit of a second career crown, carded a one-under par 71.

Smith, a Queenslander seeking her first title, had shared the first-round lead with Ciganda and led outright at the halfway stage. She closed with a two-under 70, while Shadoff seized her slice of second with a 67 and Stanford and Icher both signed for 69s.

Ciganda started the day one stroke behind Ernst. That was nothing like the five-shot deficit she made up in October to capture her first LPGA title in the Korea LPGA Championship in Incheon with a playoff victory over American Alison Lee.

That Pamplona native, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, the third European winner on the LPGA tour this year, following Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Germany’s Caroline Masson.

Messi Named Best International Athlete at ESPY Awards

The people have spoken… And, they’ve named Lionel Messi the best of the best…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol star—who claimed his third straight Ballon d’Or in January—was named Best International Athlete during Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, which celebrate the year’s best athletes and moments in sports.

lionel-messi-barca

Messi, who plays for Futbol Club Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga, beat out some of the world’s biggest sports stars for the title, including tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

During his record-breaking season, Messi scored 50 goals in La Liga and an unmatched 73 goals in all competitions. He also finished as the UEFA Champions League‘s top scorer for a fourth consecutive season with 14 goals.

But Messi wasn’t the only Latino athlete recognized…

Mario Gutierrez, who rode I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won as best jockey.

The 25-year-old Mexican jockey beat out Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez
 and John Velazquez for the trophy.

Award winners are selected exclusively through online fan voting from the list of candidates selected by the ESPY Select Nominating Committee.