Lauren Hartlage of Elizabethtown, KY shot a final round 71 and outlasted Oliva Cason on the first playoff hole to capture the 22nd Kentucky Women’s Open Championship. Conducted by the Kentucky Section PGA, the championship was played July 24th and 25th at University of Louisville Golf Club in Simpsonville.
After shooting a five under-par 67 to take a two shot lead heading into the final round, a one over-par 37 on her opening nine saw her lead quickly evaporate. The final pairing dominated the leaderboard as the trio made the turn. Hartlage was tied with 2011 Women’s Open Champion Taryn Walker of Crestwood, KY at four under-par, and Olivia Cason of Owensboro, KY just one stroke behind.
However, in just over an hour, it seemed as though Hartlage had all but wrapped up the championship. She birdied holes 11, 13, and 14 while Walker made bogey on #14, and suddenly Hartlage had a three shot lead with just four holes to play.
But as any great competitor will tell you, closing out a victory is often the hardest part. Hartlage made bogey on the par-3 16th, narrowing lead to two strokes. Cason proceeded to birdie the par-5 17th hole and all of a sudden, Hartlage’s lead was only a single stroke. Then Cason executed one of the best moments in Women’s Open history in front of a crowd of spectators, hitting her approach on the par-4 18th to within 8 feet and draining the putt to get into a playoff.
The two players headed to the 10th hole, where each hit their approach shots to within fifteen feet from the hole. After Cason missed her birdie putt, Hartlage had a chance to seal the victory.
“Going into the playoff, I just tried to keep the same mindset,” said Hartlage. “I knew I was putting well and I just needed to trust myself. After she [Cason] missed her putt, I knew I had an opportunity. We were on the same line, and I just trusted my stroke and it went in.”
Hartlage’s birdie on the first playoff hole capped off an impressive performance and her first Women’s Open title. The victory is her second at the University of Louisville Golf Club, as she won her first collegiate tournament by twelve shots last fall at the Cardinal Cup.
“It feels great,” said Hartlage. “I’ve played in this event the last five years and I’ve been close, and its really great to come through and win.”
For the University of Louisville, it was all smiles as the top three finishers are all current or former team members. Both Cason and Hartlage are currently on the Division I Women’s golf team and defending champion Molly Skapik graduated earlier this spring. The team had one of the best seasons in school history, as it became just the second team to advance to the NCAA Championships since the program’s inception in 1999-00. University of Louisville also earned its best finish at an NCAA Regional Championship, when it took fourth at the event in San Francisco in early May.
“It was really tough playing against Olivia,” said Hartlage. “We’re really good friends and we even rode to the course together today. She’s a great competitor and she played really well today.”
Despite coming up just short, it’s been quite the summer for Cason, who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open this past May. She won the sectional qualifier in Indiana, Pennsylvania with a one under-par score of 143 and was the only player to advance to the national championship.
Although Skapik wasn’t able to defend her title, she took home low professional honors at the 22nd Women’s Open, and the first place prize of $1,500. She began the day four strokes behind the lead, and after making the turn in even par, her chances of catching Hartlage looked slim. She made four birdies in her final seven holes to charge up the leaderboard and edged Walker by a single stroke. Her final round of 68 featured four birdies and no bogies, and tied for the low round of the day alongside Cason.
Up next for the Kentucky PGA is the 99th Kentucky Open Championship, which will be played July 31st – August 2nd at Big Spring CC | Harmony Landing Campus. Spectators are encouraged to attend and complete coverage will be available at kygolf.org.
About the Kentucky PGA
The Kentucky PGA (KPGA) is one of the 41 sections that comprise The PGA of America. Formed in 1925, the Kentucky PGA has a professional membership of more than 325 men and women professionals across the Commonwealth of Kentucky, each of whom is dedicated to promoting the game in Kentucky. Kentucky PGA Professionals are responsible for conducting a variety of golf-related functions, which include general management, golf instruction, tournament operations, golf shop merchandising, junior golf programs, golf club repair, and much more. The KPGA is a founding member of Golf House Kentucky, the umbrella organization that manages Kentucky’s Family of Golf Organizations.