INCHEON (SOUTH KOREA) • Carlota Ciganda survived a late meltdown to beat an equally error-prone Alison Lee in a play-off at golf's US$2 million (S$2.78 million) KEB Hana Bank Championship yesterday.
Ciganda, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour and Order of Merit champion in 2012, squandered a four-shot lead with five holes to play but found herself in a play-off after Lee failed to par the last hole.
Korean-American Lee, who is balancing the demands of being a student at the University of California at Los Angeles with life on the women's tour, again found trouble on the 18th hole in the play-off.
The 21-year-old missed the fairway with her drive and second shot, before almost recovering to make birdie with a monster putt.
Ciganda played with more control and sank an eight-foot putt for the win. It was the first LPGA Tour title for the world No. 37, who made her debut in 2012.
She had carded a closing round of 70 for a combined 10-under 278 total, while Lee closed with a 75.
"It means the world to me, and it's nice to win here in Korea where women's golf is so big," said the Spaniard, still wearing a traditional Korean hanbok from the prize-giving ceremony.
"It's been a tough two years. My coach passed away two years ago... so it's been a long journey but I love this life. I love being an athlete, I couldn't ask for a better life."
She was mentored by coach Rogelio Echeverria for almost 20 years before he died in 2014. "This tournament is for my coach, he's up there watching me," she said.
It was the 26-year-old Pamplona native's first win on the LPGA Tour and earned her a winner's cheque for US$300,000.
Ciganda had made up five strokes on overnight leader Lee, surging ahead with six birdies through her first 10 holes in wet conditions at the SKY 72 Golf Club in Incheon.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE