HARRIS — Ssu-Chia Cheng scored 199 in three rounds — tying the Epson Tour record at Sweetgrass set in 2021 by Morgane Metraux — to win the Island Resort Championship on Sunday afternoon in Harris.
Cheng (Taiwan) finished the event with 17 under par, six shots ahead of second-placed Jiwon Jeon (205) of South Korea.
Haylee Harford (USA), Michaela Finn (Sweden), Clariss Guce (Philippines) and Emilee Hoffman (USA) all finished their tournament under 10 in a four-way tie for third place.
Cheng entered the day at 12 under and as the best golfer and held on in the windy conditions to take the win.
“It certainly means a lot to me” Cheng said. “It’s a tough day for us to be here and the wind is really strong and it was tough, but I was really happy to be able to play against the wind and get the score today. I’m really happy.”
Round three began with a strong start for Cheng as she scored an eagle on the first par-4 hole of the Sweetgrass course.
Despite finishing a par four on the second hole for a bogey, Cheng shot par on holes three through eight before ending her time on the front nine with a birdie on the ninth hole.
Cheng’s putt and follow-up was smooth as the ball rolled towards the hole where it landed, bobbing on the edge for what must have seemed like an eternity to Cheng, before falling.
Cheng’s relief was evident as she arched her back for a moment before pumping her fist in celebration.
While a bogey on the 13th hole set Cheng back somewhat – closing the gap between her and the field – she birdied back-to-back at 15 and 16, par 17 and finished with another birdie at 18 to rebound and keep first place.
“I didn’t think about it too much” Cheng commented. “I was really trying to focus on my game. I knew the scoreboard was there because I had bogeyed a few holes before that, and I was really trying to pull myself together. So I had a few good shots there.
Waiting for Cheng after her final, tournament-deciding putt, there were a slew of friends who doused her with water.
“I tried not to look at them because I knew they had water for me,” Cheng chuckled. “So I was just trying to focus on my putt and be as good as I can be and get the job done and have a good putt.”
The tournament victory is the second on the Epson circuit for Cheng. His first came at the 2019 FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek.
Cheng commented that lessons learned over the past few years helped her succeed at Sweetgrass in her third appearance in the Island Resort Championship.
“I think my experience kind of helped me today,” she says. “When it’s windy here, you don’t want to play against the wind. So I was in a very good rhythm and in good mental condition.
The win will provide Cheng with a projected jump from 92nd to 8th in the 2022 Epson Tour standings – it also provides a dose of confidence.
“It certainly helps a lot in terms of rankings and certainly in terms of confidence,” she says. “I feel really strong mentally, and that’s a big part of my goal for these two years. I tried to really work on my mind (game). I guess hard work pays off.
Cheng becomes the 11th single winner in 11 editions of the Island Resort Championship since its inception in 2011. There were no events in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Jiwon Jeon’s second place is the first among the top ten in his professional career.
“Being in second place is a very good achievement for me,” said Jeon in a post-tournament interview. “I wasn’t really expecting the best this week, but I did my best to stay on top near the lead. What I did today and this week, I was very, very proud, and I want to congratulate myself.
With just two bogeys on the day, one front and one back, Jeon pared on 12 of 18 holes with birdies on nine, 11, 14 and 18.
“Something clicked, and I started playing well on the back nine,” she says. “Overall, I’m very happy with what I got today, and I’m very proud of myself for sticking around and being patient.”
Lucy Li (USA) is set to retain her first place overall in the 2022 Epson Tour as she finished this weekend’s tournament tied for seventh with Sofia Garcia (Paraguay). They both had 207 (9-under).
Kaitlin Milligan (USA) finished behind the pair in ninth at 208, ahead of a tie at eight for 10th.