Cheyenne Knight's Dow Great Lakes partner is thankful for team play in getting first LPGA win in 82 starts
Elizabeth Szokol (left) and Cheyenne Knight celebrate on the 15th green during the final round of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
Cheyenne Knight and Elizabeth Szokol won the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour's two-person team event, with a final-round five-under 65 four-ball score at Midland (Mich.) Country Club, clinching a one-shot victory over Matilda Castren and Kelly Tan. Here's how Knight/Szokol triumphed.
Knight/Szokol (-23), Castren/Tan (-22), Jodi Ewart Shadoff/Emma Talley (-20), Celine Borge/Polly Mack (-20), Celine Boutier/Yuka Saso (-20)
What it means
Szokol, 29, won her first LPGA Tour event in her 82nd career start. Knight, 26, earned her second LPGA title alongside the 2019 Ascendant LPGA. However, neither Knight nor Szokol earned any Team USA Solheim or Rolex Ranking points due to the tournament's team format. They did receive the usual two-season status exemption for a victory and CME points.
The triumph is Knight's fourth top-10 of 2023, the most she has had in a season during her five-year career.
Tan/Castren finished runner-up at the event for the second straight year. The duo lost in 2022 by five strokes to Jennifer Kupcho/Lizette Salas, who were not able to try to defend their title because of Salas' back injury. Tan, 29, fell just short of becoming the first Malaysian golfer to win on the LPGA.
How it happened
Saturday turned into a battle of the final grouping, with the tournament coming down to the last putt. Multiple teams got within two strokes of Knight/Szokol, but only Castren/Tan caught the 54-hole leaders. They tied them three times Saturday but never took the lead.
Knight/Szokol held a three-shot lead at 18 under to start Saturday after they had set the tournament record foursomes score of an eight-under-par 62 in Friday's third round. That lead evaporated quickly, as Castren/Tan tied them after the sixth when Tan, 326th in the Rolex Rankings, made her team's fourth birdie of the day to catch Knight/Szokol at 19 under. Birdies for the 54-hole leaders on Nos. 9 and 12, along with Castren/Tan carding a bogey on the 10th, earned Knight/Szokol a two-shot lead when the horn blared for a weather delay at 4:35 PM ET.
An hour and 40 minutes later, the final group returned to the 13th, where they went back and forth to the last hole.
Castren/Tan birdied the 13th and 14th to share the lead at 21 under. Szokol, 210th in the world rankings, responded on the 15th by jarring a 10-foot birdie to return to the top of the leaderboard at 22 under par. Castren drained a hooking 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th to tie Knight/Szokol again before Knight answered with her own 3 to regain a one-stroke advantage heading to the last.
All four players had a chance to birdie the par-3 18th, with Castren hitting it closest at 20 feet away. After Tan left her lengthy putt short and the American duo was in for a par, Castren's last chance to force a playoff skimmed just past the right edge of the cup.
Jane Park/Paula Creamer's two-over-par missed-cut performance was the most inspiring of the week. Park, 36, teed it up for the first time on the LPGA since her daughter, Grace, who had undiagnosed brain seizures at 10 months old starting at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic. Park took leave of the tour to care for Grace, who was eventually diagnosed with intractable epilepsy.
Jane Park visits with her daughter after completing the third hole during Day One of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.
Park had her husband, Pete Godfrey, on the bag and Grace in attendance. Godfrey is a long-time caddie and currently loops for LPGA member Hye-Jin Choi. The tournament raised money for Epilepsy Foundation and the Golf for Her Foundation this week by selling pink hats with Grace emblazoned on them. Players also wore purple ribbons to show their support.
Park didn't formally say if this would be the final start of her career, but she closed out their four-ball Thursday round on a high note, carding three birdies over her last four holes to post a three-under-par 67.
"If it is my last time, then I am very appreciative for the opportunity to kind of rewrite the ending of my golf career," Park said.
Best of the rest
Sarah Kemp/Alena Sharp matched the week's best round with a 60 on Saturday to finish in eighth place at 16 under. It's a season-best result for both veterans. While Kemp, 37, has had a steady year with a pair of T-13s, Sharp is battling for a return to the LPGA while playing on the developmental Epson Tour. The Canadian, 42, sits in 10th on Epson's money list, the last spot that earns LPGA status for 2024. This week was the third LPGA start of the year for Sharp. Her best result was a T-62 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in June.
Highlight of the day
Emma Talley eagled the par-4 16th to move herself and Jodi Ewart Shadoff to within a stroke of the lead. After picking her ball up, Talley joked, "Emma Talley can hit a golf ball!" Talley/Ewart Shadoff ended up T-3, Talley's best result since losing in a playoff at the 2021 ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Biggest disappointment: Brooke Henderson/Lexi Thompson missed the cut by a stroke, despite the talented duo birdieing three of their last four holes of the four-ball second round to finish at two under par. This week is the fifth missed cut in seven starts for Thompson in 2023, tying a career-high for missed cuts in a season. The American didn't make the weekend five times over 21 starts in 2019. Henderson heads into her Amundi Evian Championship title defense off back-to-back missed cuts.