After three consecutive starts in the Kathy Whitworth Invitational, former U.S. Amateur champion Kristen Gillman of Austin didn’t play in last year’s tournament because of a wrist injury.
The Lake Travis High School golfer made her return in knockout fashion Tuesday, outlasting Oklahoma resident Yujeong Son of South Korea to win the prestigious junior event on the second playoff hole at Mira Vista Country Club.
It’s Gillman’s first victory since claiming the U.S. Amateur title in 2014.
“It was a long drought,” said Gillman, who signed with Alabama last fall. “It’s been hard. I had those thoughts of wondering if I would make it back, but it’s nice to finally get that next win.”
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I really just figured I needed to make it, and I just stood over it and envisioned doing that.
Kristen Gillman on sinking her winning putt at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational
It was a birdie putt on the second playoff hole that sealed the deal, but Gillman had to mix up the playbook in order to get it done.
Gillman backed up her first-round 70 with an even-par 71 to close at 1-under 141 on Tuesday. She hit a 3-wood on the final hole in regulation that left her with tree trouble.
On the first playoff hole, she hit a 3-wood again off the tee into a similar area before finally changing to a driver and hammering one up the left side.
That left her just 75 yards to the back-right hole location where she skipped a sand wedge 9 feet short of the hole.
Son had knocked her third shot inside of that for par, but Gillman said there wasn’t any doubt she needed to make birdie.
“I really just figured I needed to make it, and I just stood over it and envisioned doing that,” she said.
It’s a big confidence boost and an indication that my game is still there.”
Kristen Gillman, who won the U.S. Amateur in 2014
For Son, her approach on the 36th hole skipped just off the green and she had to hole a 5-foot par putt just to cap her round of 1-under 70 and get into the playoff.
“I did feel good about giving myself a chance to win the tournament,” Son said. “I didn’t think 1 under would have a chance, but I went out there and the golf course was just set up great for scoring.”
Gillman also had a chance to end it in regulation. Her wedge approach left her about 16 feet for birdie, but the putt ended up short.
“It’s a big confidence boost and an indication that my game is still there,” said Gillman, who has led Lake Travis to two state titles in the past three years. “It was just a steady day with a few bogeys and birdies, but I hit a lot of fairways and greens and that made it easy to make par.”