Third win on LPGA Tour is worth the wait for Kirk
GOLF: Katherine Kirk is celebrating her third victory on the LPGA Tour - and first in seven years - after a gritty performance at Wisconsin.
The 35-year-old from Sunrise Beach won the inaugural Thornberry Creek Classic by one shot, ahead of South Afirca's Ashleigh Buhai.
She finished on 22-under par, following a final round of one-under 70, which included a clutch 3m birdie attempt on the 18th green.
"To make that putt was huge," she said.
"I had a good line on it. I'm just so glad it went in."
It was a drought-breaking performance for Kirk, with 152 events between tour victories.
She had previously won the Canadian Women's Open in 2008 and the Navistar Classic in 2010.
"It's gotten a lot harder than when I first did it. We've got so much talent out here now," the world number 139 said.
She almost thought of giving the game away during 2015 and 2016.
"I had two rough years...and when you're in that position and you've had success before it does go through your mind that 'okay maybe I don't have what it takes to be competitive out here any more'," she said.
"So when you're in that position and not getting in every tournament it's kind of a grind and certainly in the back of my mind it was like 'well maybe it's time to figure out something else to do'.
"But a change of swing coach and a little bit of harder work has paid off and I'm grateful to still be playing. I still love it so I'm thankful for that."
Kirk carded opening rounds of 68, 63 and 65 to hold a four-stroke lead over Buhai heading into the final round.
She was then forced to stave off her opponent's charge on Monday.
"The whole round was interesting and very up-and-down," she said.
There were unexpected bogeys on 10 and 11 but she birdied the next hole and the 14th.
Then a bogey on 17 gave saw her advantage slip to just one stroke heading into the last.
When Buhai's approach shot to the par-four went close, Kirk had to make her putt to win.
"I'm glad I didn't have to play extra holes because I don't know how it would have turned it out," Kirk said.
Kirk secured a $394,000 pay day and entry into this week's US Women's Open at New Jersey.
"Winning was unexpected and getting into the Open was unexpected so I've got to scramble to book a flight out there and get my caddy there and get accommodation but it's going to be a great week," she said
"It's always fun to play in majors and I'm probably carrying the best form into a major that I ever have so it's going to be exciting."