Ashley Knoll’s professional golf career has been quite the journey.
Through wrist injuries, events on the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA’s developmental tour, her résumé was a mixed bag until Wednesday.
With a furious 5-under 31 at Rolling Hills Country Club, Knoll blew past leaders Emily Collins and Amber Hensley on the final nine holes to wrap up the Texas Women’s Open title.
It’s Knoll’s first professional win, and she did it in style with a bogey-free final-round 65 to finish the tournament 6-under par and collect $3,000.
“I didn’t really feel like I played the back any different than the front nine,” Knoll said. “It was just that I had more putts fall back here. And I had probably three birdie chances that I left out on the front nine, so it wasn’t perfect.”
Perfection, though, wasn’t needed.
Knoll pulled within two shots of Hensley with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 while Collins pulled into a share of the lead at the turn.
Unaware of Knoll’s stretch up ahead, Collins’ bogey at the 10th dropped her back again, and she three-putted the par-5 11th after settling her second shot to about 18 feet for eagle.
Hensley, who found trouble on the 11th, was able to salvage par and maintained a one-shot lead.
Collins birdied the 12th to pull even again.
But while the final pairing drama unfolded, Knoll was busy doing the damage.
The Woodlands native, who played college golf at Texas A&M, hit a driver within 30 yards of No. 13 to collect another birdie and then hit a pitching wedge approach within inches of an eagle at No. 15.
By that time, Knoll’s game was on full throttle as she seized the lead and put it out of reach with a bit of luck on her tee shot at No. 17.
“I hit driver, but I hooked it left,” she said. “All I was saying was hit a tree or something, and it did and jumped forward in front of the bunker.”
The ball bounded back into the fairway after rapidly approaching the out-of-bounds stakes.
From there, Knoll hit her wedge approach to 12 feet and dropped in her fifth birdie coming in.
“I didn’t really think about having a chance to win until No. 13, when I made a nice putt for par,” Knoll said. “Then I was just trying to keep focused on my game and not worry too much about what was happening in my group or behind me.”
Knoll matched her personal-best tournament round of 65.
“I really just tried to focus on a few keys, staying tall, taking deep breaths and thinking about where I want the ball to go,” Knoll said. “I didn’t have a number in mind, but if I could beat my personal best, I figured that might put some pressure on the leaders.”