A final round 73 of one over par gave Stephanie Meadow a top 10 of the inaugural IOA Invitational.
On a day when 49 of the 60 players that made the cut shot over par, with only eight to score under par Meadow began with a bogey at her opening hole. She quickly picked that shot back on the Par 5 fourth. The Jordanstown professional dropped a further shot on her sixth hole but parred her way home to cement a top ten finish that leaves her in second place of the season long Volvik Race for LPGA Tour card.
At the top it was no surprise that the round of the day also belonged to the first-ever champion of the IOA Invitational, Elizabeth Szokol (Winnetka, Illinois). The University of Virginia product fired a 4-under par in the final round to finish at 4-under overall and take home the trophy.
“Very excited about it, definitely a big confidence booster,” said Szokol, who went 71-73 in the first two rounds. “Playing out here all year last year, I got more confidence so I was just really waiting for that win. It means a lot to be able to get the win in just my second event this year.”
The final pairing of 36-hole leader Lydia Hall (Bridgend, Wales), Karen Chung (Livingston, N.J.) and Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico) really swung the door of opportunity wide open for Szokol this afternoon. They shot 19-over par, combined.
“All day was pretty tough, the wind picked up so it was a little rough,” said Chung, who went 2-over par in the final round, including 3-over on the back nine. “We definitely couldn’t vibe off each other today out there and towards the back nine, I kind of fell apart, too. This was still my best finish of the year, so going to take it as a positive.”
In her first start of the year at the IOA Championship that Meadow won, Szokol missed the cut. A lot has changed in the last month to get her into the winner’s circle.
“I actually switched my irons, so kind of have more control around the greens with my new irons,” Szokol said. “Kept working hard on my swing, putting and short game. Came out here just so excited to keep playing after the three weeks off.”
Leading up to the final round, Mother Nature provided pleasant conditions. Today, that changed with heavy, swirling winds taking over.
Nonetheless, that did not stop Szokol from signing a bogey-free card and, in the process, come from five shots back to win by one.
“Especially when I got out of the car and it was pretty windy at the course, I knew staying patient at the start and maybe making a couple birdies I’d have a chance,” said Szokol, who collected six top-10 finishes in her rookie campaign on the Symetra Tour last year. “Definitely some thought of a chance. I wanted to go out there, post a good score and see what happened.”