McDonald celebrates 28th birthday with first LPGA Tour win

Sports

GREENSBORO, Ga. (AP) — Ally McDonald celebrated her birthday with her first LPGA Tour victory.

“It’s the best birthday present ever,” McDonald.

The 28-year-old from Mississippi held off Danielle Kang by a stroke Sunday in the LPGA Drive On Championship-Lake Reynolds Oconee. McDonald closed with a 3-under 69 for a 16-under 272 total on the Great Waters Course. Kang birdied the par-5 18th for a 68.

“I’ve never doubted my ability, but I’ve definitely questioned whether I would be able to win out here,” McDonald said. “It’s really hard to win out here. So, I’ve just really hung in there and tried to stick to my process since Day 1. That was able to get me in the winner’s circle today. I’m really thankful.”

McDonald birdied the first three holes on the back nine, dropped a stroke on 14, birdied 16, bogeyed 17 and parred the par-5 18th. Kang birdied Nos. 12, 13 and 14 to pull within a stroke, but bogeyed the 15th.

“I’m not going to lie, it shook me up pretty bad,” McDonald said. “I had to gather myself and get my heart rate under control after I made bogey on 13 and Danielle went back to back on birdies on 13 and 14. I just told myself to calm down and do what I’ve been doing every single round, and that is just trying to execute my game plan, control what I can.”

Kang won back-to-back events in Ohio in the summer, leads the Race to CME Globe and, at No. 5 in the world, was the top-ranked player in the field.

“I knew from the start that Danielle was going to hang in there,” McDonald said. “You kind of go to match play mode and you think absolutely she’s going to put the pedal down. So I was just happy to hang in there and pull it out.”

McDonald’s parents watched her play during the weekend.

“It means the world to me, obviously, that they’re here,” McDonald said. “This is the closest golf tournament that we have. … Having them here was just amazing.”

Kang played through back spasms.

“I think I just need to take a few days off right now,” Kang said. “My back has went into a spasm few days ago. I call it wifi. It’s on strong right and left. So it was a little difficult this week to play with it. I think I’m very proud of how I played despite not having my full game, but Ally played wonderfully and it’s been a really great week.”

Bianca Pagdanganan of the Philippines was two strokes back after a 70. Making her sixth LPGA Tour start of the year and seventh overall. she birdied the last two holes after opening with 16 pars.

“Being at this level and just being able to compete with the greatest players, it’s so much fun,” Pagdanganan said. “I say this a lot, but I really do get to live my dream. If you told me a couple years ago that I would be playing on the LPGA Tour and in this position in my rookie year I probably wouldn’t believe you.”

Mina Harigae (67) and Carlota Ciganda (69) were 13 under, a stroke ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Katherine Kirk (70).

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