Golf

Georgia signee overcomes tough week to win Kathy Whitworth Invitational

Nelly Korda shoots from the rough at the 11th hole during The Kathy Whitworth Invitational Junior Girls Golf Championship at Mira Vista on Tuesday.
Nelly Korda shoots from the rough at the 11th hole during The Kathy Whitworth Invitational Junior Girls Golf Championship at Mira Vista on Tuesday. Star-Telegram

Rinko Mitsunaga’s Cinderella story began Saturday night at DFW Airport when conveyors didn’t spit out her golf bag or clothes.

So Mitsunaga fired from the first tee Monday with a borrowed set of clubs and pulled her ball out on the second playoff hole Tuesday at Mira Vista Country Club as the 2015 Kathy Whitworth Invitational champion.

It not only concluded a bizarre 72 hours for the Georgia signee, but it added a bit a confidence and a check mark to Mitsunaga’s list of goals this spring.

“Honestly, I played great with the borrowed set and probably because I had low expectations,” said Mitsunaga, of Roswell, Ga. “I had a fight with my dad over even coming to this tournament, but I love it here. You’re treated great and the course is amazing.”

The list of improbables continued through the playoff, starting with a closing bogey that dropped Mitsunaga into a tie with California’s Stephanie Lau.

The two tied at 146 and each stayed with their game plan in the playoff, with Mitsunaga working her driver up the right side of Mira Vista’s split 18th fairway.

Lau went up the left side and needed a salty up-and-down from the backside bunker to save par and force a second extra hole.

Mitsunaga missed a 4-foot birdie putt and both players went back to the 18th tee.

Lau mixed it up the next time around, but her driver played up the right side found the creek that runs along the left side of the fairway.

Mitsunaga played her approach to the center of the green and made par, while Lau worked her third shot approach to 5 feet after taking a drop.

Lau, however, missed her par putt to end it.

“For me to even be there is a big thing, just considering how I started the final round,” Mitsunaga said. “I had four bogeys on No. 2-5 and didn’t make my first birdie until No. 9. I was just trying to stay patient and wait on things to turn around.”

Mitsunaga closed with a 74, and Lau posted a 73 in the final round.

For Lau — who said the Whitworth is her favorite tournament — it’s her best finish in four appearances.

“I gave myself a chance with my second shot, I just pulled the putt,” she said. “If anything, I battled but I haven’t played well here in the past, so I was at least pleased to turn things around a bit.”

Youngin Chun and Rino Sasaki finished tied for third place just one shot behind at 147.

Cheyenne Knight had the day’s low round, carding a 69 and climbing into fifth place along with Florida’s Nelly Korda.

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