Team Ireland’s Leona Maguire took another giant step towards the LPGA Tour despite losing out in an eagle after a thrilling five-hole playoff on the Symetra Tour in Atlanta.
The Co Cavan star (25) looked to be playing for a top-five finish when she went into the final round if the IOA Invitational seven strokes behind Mexico's Ingrid Gutierrez Nuñez,
But she closed with a bogey-free, five-under 67 at Atlanta National to make a four-way playoff with Spain's Maria Parra, Chinese Taipei's Ssu-Chia Cheng and American Madison Pressel on six-under par.
Parra eventually came out on top in a 90-minute, sudden-death playoff when she eagled the fifth extra hole of a high-quality playoff. Scores
But Maguire was far from downbeat after another successful week on the second tier US circuit.
“If you'd told me this morning I would be in a playoff after being seven shots back at the start of the day, it was just a bonus," said Leona, who qualified for the US Women's Open after a Sectional qualifier in Atlanta on Monday, just 24 hours after jetting in from finishing fifth on the LET in Dubai.
"I was pretty tired coming into this week, so just wanted to try and play some solid golf. Maria played some incredible golf in the playoff and I couldn’t really do much more than that."
The sudden-death playoff lasted five holes and around 90 minutes with the par-five 18th providing almost all the drama
While Cheng was eliminated after finding water the first time around, Maguire, Pressel and Parra birdied it three times in a row, then parred the par-four first before returning to the 18th again.
As Pressel found water with her second and bowed out with a bogey, Leona came up just short with an eagle chip from just off the back of the green and 21-year old Parra, who had earlier missed three good chances to close out her maiden win, made no mistake from around 15 feet.
"I think we put a show on for the people still here," said Leona, who picked up $11,030 to remain second in the money list race for 10 LPGA Tour cards at the end of the season, just over $2,000 behind Paraguay’s Julieta Granada heading into this week's Symetra Classic near Charlotte.
"They weren’t easy holes, but I guess we made it look easier. Happy going into next week, back close to where I went to college.”
Parra earned $22,500 to move up 23 spots to No. 3, having earned $30,345 across six starts this season.
Symetra Tour Top-10
1. Julieta Granada (Asuncion, Paraguay) - $49,790
2. Leona Maguire - $47,540
3. Maria Parra - $30,345
4. Jillian Hollis (Rocky River, Ohio) - $28,436
5. Cydney Clanton (Concord, North Carolina) - $27,650
6. Kelly Tan (Batu Pahat, Malaysia) - $26,180
7. Lauren Coughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia) - $25,321
8. Ssu-Chia Cheng - $22,349
9. Madison Pressel - $21,737
10. Dewi Weber (Groningen, Netherlands) - $20,921