It certainly wasn’t the final round that Leona Maguire wanted at the IOA Championship as she fell from the top of the leaderboard at the start of the day to finish in a tie for fourth place.
Maguire, who had been hoping to continue the Irish winning trend at the tournament and follow last year’s winner Stephanie Meadow had held a one stroke lead heading to the final round but it wasn’t to be.
A final round of 77, including four bogeys and a double in her first 8 holes, put paid to her title chances but with the weather playing havoc with the players and strong winds affecting club choices and lines, Maguire steadied herself and closed with nine pars and a birdie in her final ten holes.
“I played well and think some of those pins on the front nine greens were a bit ridiculous,” said Maguire. “There was just no way to stop the ball. I played as well as I could, my pace putting probably wasn’t great on the front nine and that kind of killed me but I hung in there on the back nine and tried to finish as strong as I could,” she added.
In the end her two under par closing total was only two shots off the winning score of Jillian Hollis who herself returned a two-over par round but held off Julieta Granada by one stroke to claim the title.
Heading into the last four holes Hollis was 5-over par but she saved her best for when it mattered most. A three-time All-American while at the University of Georgia, Hollis recorded birdie on the par-3 15th and followed that up with an eagle on the par-5 16th, with a pair of pars coming in enough to capture her first career Symetra Tour victory.
“I didn’t realize how windy it was going to be,” said Hollis. “I played in the afternoon yesterday and had a really good score. I was hoping it would die down a little bit today, but it never did. To finish and get that momentum down the stretch was super great.”
The breakthrough win for Hollis comes after finishes of tied for eighth at the SKYiGOLF Championship and tied for 20th in the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. On top of it all, she lost a sudden-death playoff in her Symetra Tour debut at the 2018 Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Parks District.
“Being a champion sounds so great, especially after playing a bunch of tournaments and coming so close,” Hollis said. “In my first one last year being in a playoff and coming close again in our first tournament this year. To finish the drill as we say in Athens, it feels really good. I’m happy that I was able to get it done today.”
On the positive side, Leona Maguire has moved to just outside the automatic qualifying places on the Volvik Race for the Card where she now sits in 7th position on $14,010, while winner Hollis moves from 11th to 2nd overall.
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD
- Julieta Granada (Asuncion, Paraguay) – $30,887
- Jillian Hollis – $26,875
- Lauren Coughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia) – $22,088
- Demi Runas (Torrance, California) – $18,923
- Kelly Tan (Batu Pahat, Malaysia)- $18,750
- Karen Chung (Livingston, New Jersey) – $15,976
- Leona Maguire (County Cavan, Ireland) – $14,010
- Kyung Kim (Chandler, Arizona) – $13,817
- Amy Lee – $12,690
- Jean Reynolds (Newnan, Georgia) – $12,152