Matilda Castren became the first player from Finland to win on the LPGA, emerging from a thick Marine Layer as a rising European star.
“I knew one day it would be me,” said an emotional Castren, “but you didn’t think it was going to be so soon.”
Castren, who began the day two strokes back of Min Lee, started out blazing hot at chilly Lake Merced, stuffing her approach shots for easy birdies on the first three holes and then converting a short eagle putt on the par-5 fifth. She was 5 under through five holes and looking like someone who’d been in this position one thousand times over. In truth, this was only her 15th start on the LPGA.
The seemingly unflappable 26-year-old made the turn in 30 and built a three-shot lead over Taiwan’s Lee, who looked to become the first player to win on the Symetra Tour and LPGA in consecutive starts.
As Castren cooled off with pars on the back nine, the easygoing Lee tightened things up, pulling to within one after a birdie on the par-5 15th.
A short miss for par on the par-3 17th, however, gave Lee her first bogey of the day and put her two back with only the closing par 5 to play. Lee’s eagle putt on the 18th from just off the green from around 25 feet, came up about an inch short and the expressive player dropped to her knees.
Castren then calmly dropped in a final birdie putt to cap off a glorious 65 that put her at 14 under for the tournament, two head of Lee. It was a two-player contest for most of the day, and they only dropped one shot between them.
“I mean, winning a tournament you have to practice,” said Lee, “and this is a great practice. Maybe after couple times I will be there.”
So Yeon Ryu and Hannah Green, both majors winners, finished in a share of third at 8 under.
Castren, a 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie, won seven times at Florida State and collected her first LPGA title on the same day another former Seminole, Morgane Metraux, won on the Island Resort Championship on the Symetra Tour.
Prior to this week, Castren’s career-best finish on the LPGA was a tie for eighth at the 2020 LPGA Drive On Championship in Georgia. She tied for 30th at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open at nearby Olympic Club.
Celine Boutier bolted up the board with a closing 64 to move into a share of sixth. Jodi Ewart Shadoff hit 18 greens in a final-round 65 that included six birdies in the last eight holes to also vault into the top 10.
Michelle Wie West played the weekend for the first time since coming back from maternity leave. Wie West, who is a member at Lake Merced, shot 69-71 over the weekend to finish tied for 40th.
One week after suffering a heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson finished with a 74 to place tied for 34th.