South Korean Amy Yang has won tournaments around the world in 15 years as a touring pro, but she had never hoisted a trophy in her adopted homeland.
That all changed Sunday in Naples, Florida.
Yang holed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Tiburón Golf Club, dropped her putter and covered her mouth in disbelief before a tidal wave of champagne doused her at the CME Group Tour Championship. She shot 6-under 66 for a tournament-record 27-under 261 total and a three-stroke victory worth $2 million from the $7 million purse. American Alison Lee and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka shared second place at 24-under.
“I’ve always wanted to win my first one in the United States,” said the 34-year-old Yang, who makes her U.S. base in Florida, “and this is just special. It’s just a great honor.”
It was her fifth title on the LPGA, but her first outside of Asia and her first since winning the Honda LPGA Thailand in early 2019. She also has won in Australia, Germany and Sweden on the Ladies European Tour.
After starting the final round tied for the lead with Hataoka, Yang withstood an early stumble when she made bogey on the third hole and then found herself three strokes back after five. Yang quickly recovered with birdies at Nos. 7, 8 and 10 before the tournament turned decidedly in her direction.
They mean everything to me. Thank you so much for waiting for me for my first win in the U.S.”
Amy Yang, talking about her fellow players' reaction
At the par-4 13th hole, Yang took the lead for the first time when she holed a wedge from 80 yards for an eagle-2.
“That was good momentum,” Yang said at the trophy presentation while wearing the tournament’s signature blue blazer, “but I was so nervous down the stretch.”
When Hataoka lipped out a 4-foot par putt at the 16th, the outcome was all but sealed. Yang added to her momentum with a birdie at the par-5 17th and then capped the title with a closing birdie.
A wave of LPGA colleagues stormed the green and showered their approval on Yang.
“They mean everything to me,” she said of her playing competitors. “Thank you so much for waiting for me for my first win in the U.S.”
Lee, who is looking for her first LPGA victory after winning two LET titles in the past three years, played bogey-free golf in closing with a 66 and co-runner-up.
Meanwhile, Lilia Vu finished solo fourth and secured the tour’s player of the year. Vu, a 26-year-old Californian, has won four times this season, including major titles at the Chevron and the AIG Women’s Open. With her fourth victory, last week at the Annika Driven by Gainbridge at Pelican just up Florida’s Gulf Coast, she also returned to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings for the third time this year.
“There is a lot of learning moments,” Vu said. “I think very up and down. Just know how to plan my schedule better next year. I know what I need to do, and it makes me excited for the offseason and replanning what I want for next year.”
South Korea’s Hae Ran Ryu was named the tour’s rookie of the year before she closed the year with a T36 in Naples. She had clinched the award one week earlier with a tie for 12th at the Annika Driven by Gainbridge. Ryu, 22, who medaled at the 2022 LPGA Q-Series, won the Walmart NW Arkansas title and added five other top-10 results.