Lilia Vu (Titleist Pro V1x) literally took a major leap in her career winning the 2023 Chevron Championship in a playoff against Angel Yin (Titleist Pro V1).
Vu recorded her second win on the LPGA Tour since joining it in 2019, but this was her first major.
Yin had been playing solidly until she bogeyed two of the final three holes with some errant approach shots and then sent her second shot in the water in the playoff hole. Vu birdied the hole to win. It was an unfortunate ending for Yin, who has battled back from a shoulder injury and has yet to win a LPGA tournament since she joined it in 2017 and was named Rookie of the Year. She came into the tournament ranked 172nd in the world rankings. She earned $479,680 for the runnerup finish. She came into the tournament with only $3,256 in earnings on the season.
In the overall content of the tournament, Vu’s victory was not necessarily a surprise. She opened the 2023 season winning the Honda LPGA Thailand and had top-15 finishes in her next three tournaments. She was also ranked 12th into the world going into the tournament, in which most betting shops had her 16-1 to win. Nelly Korda (Titleist Pro V1) and Lydia Ko (Titleist Pro V1x) were the co-main favorites at 11-1. Korda finished third after making a spectacular long-range eagle putt on the 18th hole. Ko missed the cut.
Jennifer Kupcho (Titleist Pro V1), the 2022 champion, also failed to make the cut.
Vu carded a four-under 68 on her final round, while other players in contention faltered. Yin carded an even-par 72.
World number five Atthaya Thitikul (Callaway Chrome Soft X) was in contention until she hit her third shot into the water on the 18th hole and ended up with a double bogey to finish tied for fourth with A Lim Kim (Titleist Pro V1), Allisen Corpuz (Titleist Pro V1), Albane Valenzuela (Titleist Pro V1) and Amy Yang (Titleist Pro V1x).
This was the first year the tournament was played at The Woodlands, Texas after it was moved from its longstanding home at the Mission Hills Country Club in California. Vu kept the tradition at Mission Hills of jumping into the water. The crowd repeatedly chanted “jump, jump, jump,” after her win. When asked if she would jump into the water, Vu answered: “Of course.”
Unlike the golfers taking a run from the course into Poppie’s Pond in Mission Hills, a dock was in place for the winner to take the running leap and Vu did it ceremoniously, even though it was a chilly day and the water was cold. Apparently the water was dredged to clean out mud and weeds and nets were used to keep out alligators. The water apparently had some snakes. It wasn’t warm because the weather had been chilly all day.
The final round started 50 minutes late because some lightning and rain.
When asked how she felt before her tournament-winning shot, Vu said: “How do I even put it into words? I was nervous, I was scared, I was cold.”
But she said everything happens for a reason. Following her stellar rookie season, she struggled and eventually had to rebuild her game on the Symetra Tour. She was struggling so much, she considered quitting, but she won three tournaments in 2021 and regained her LPGA card. Last year she made 21 of 24 cuts and earned more than $918,000.
She collected $765,000 from the record $5.1 million purse.
It was noted during the broadcast that Vu does not have an agent. Suffice to say, she’ll probably have one soon. Her talent and her story are compelling.
ONE IN A MILLION: Three-time major winner In Gee Chun (Srixon Z-Star) recorded a hole in one on the par-three 17th hole on Saturday to win the Chevron Challenge that awarded $1 million for nine charities for the first ace in the tournament.
JUST A PERSONAL THOUGHT: I wish the networks that televise women’s golf would make use of the technology and graphics commonly used in men’s golf, such as distance off the tee, club speed and trajectory, and exact distances to the hole (such as Korda’s eagle).