Canadian Lee-Bentham shares win at LPGA qualifying event
Barrie, Ont. native Stephanie Sherlock also gains full status
Canada's Rebecca Lee-Bentham shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday to tie Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn for the top spot in the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament, leading the 20 players who earned full status.
Lee-Bentham and Jutanugarn finished the five-round event at 13-under 347 at LPGA International. Lee-Bentham holed a 60-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
"I wasn't really thinking about coming in first or anything," Lee-Bentham said. "I just wanted to play well and focus on striking it well and making putts. I've been waiting for this for a while. It's been a long grind for everybody out here."
The 18-year-old Jutanugarn shot a 74 after taking a six-stroke lead into the day.
"I'm so happy to get my card," Jutanugarn said. "I got it and that was my goal."
Lee-Bentham wasn't the only Canadian who earned full status for next year. Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont., finished eight shots back at 10th, despite shooting a 74 in the final.
Japan's Ayako Uehara was third at 12-under after a 69. Kathleen Ekey followed at 10-under after a 65, and Lisa McCloskey and Japan's Chie Arimura were 8-under. McCloskey had a 71, and Arimura shot 70.
Two-time tour winner Laura Diaz improved her status, tying for eighth at 6-under after a 72. Christina Kim, also a two-time tour winner, failed to improve her status, shooting a 74 to tie for 39th at 1-over.
Felicity Johnson also earned full status along with Karlin Beck, Stephanie Sherlock, Kayla Mortellaro, Kim Welch, Brooke Pancake, Austin Ernst, Caroline Masson, Austrian amateur Marina Stuetz, Lauren Doughtie, Nicole Jeray, Taylore Karle and Irene Cho.
Doughtie, Jeray, Karle and Cho survived a seven-player playoff for the final spots.
"By far the most nerve-racking putt of my life," Cho said about her 2-foot birdie try on the final playoff hole. "I learned a lot about my game this week. About my endurance and patience. But just a lot of emotions right now. I couldn't be happier."
The 19-year-old Stuetz will be the lone Austrian player on the tour.
"I'm just overwhelmed," Stuetz said. "I can't describe how I feel at the moment. I'm so happy. I made my dream come true. I'm super excited. I told myself I would stay amateur to keep off the pressure, but that I actually made it in the top 20, of course, I will turn pro."