It was anyone’s tournament going into the final round of the AmazingCre Portland Classic and it remained that way throughout the day at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. With numerous lead changes and a myriad of elite players clawing their way to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, a clear champion wasn’t established until the final putts. That champion is Andrea Lee, who finished at -19 and earned the first win of her LPGA Tour career.
“All the hard work has paid off. It’s been my dream to win on the LPGA Tour, and the fact that I accomplished that today is just pretty surreal,” the Rolex First-Time Winner said. “Some of the past champions (of the Portland Classic) are legends of the game… I’m extremely honored to join that list of names.”
Lee started the day at -13 and in the lead group alongside fellow Epson Tour graduate Lilia Vu and 2022 first-time winner Ayaka Furue. She got off to a rough start with two bogeys in her first three holes but turned it around shortly after with birdies on holes five, six and seven. The American continued the birdie barrage with five on the back nine and took advantage of Columbia Edgewater’s four par-5s throughout the round, birdieing every single one.
Lee had a two-stroke lead at -19 going into the final two holes, but she struggled on the par-4 17th after her ball landed in a fairway divot.
“It was a bad break obviously, but nothing you could do about it. I was kind of in between clubs. I was debating whether I should hit a really full 7-iron or choke-up 6-iron, and I went with choke-6 and tugged it a little,” Lee explained. “I caught it pretty clean. I think if I aimed it a little bit more right it would’ve been on the green. But tugged it and went into the bunker. I just had to keep myself calm and try and get it up and down. Hit it to about a foot so that definitely helped calm the nerves.”
Lee’s spectacular sand save allowed her to maintain the two-stroke lead going into the final hole. Ecuadorian Daniela Darquea, playing one group ahead, put the pressure on Lee with a birdie on No. 18 to reach -18. But Lee said she remained calm, avoided focusing on the leaderboard and finished with a routine by that made her an LPGA champion.
Looking at Lee’s final stats, it’s easy to see how she became a champion. The Stanford alumna led the field in birdies and hit the most fairways and greens in regulation. Her game is the best it’s ever been, she said, but it’s been a long journey to reach this point.
“My junior career and my amateur career have always been kind of smooth sailing I would say. I kind of expected a lot out of myself coming into the LPGA and turning professional. Put a lot of pressure on myself to do really well off the bat,” said Lee, who is tied for the title of winningest golfer in Stanford history. “That wasn’t the case at all. 2020 was a decent year, but then 2021 was a struggle… Just learned from all those experiences last year, and I really have grown as a golfer and really proud of the way that I managed to use all those experiences to get that win today. ”
Darquea’s second-place finish is her best on the LPGA Tour. Her previous best was a tie for fifth at the 2018 Dana Open presented by Marathon. The 27-year-old lost full status on the LPGA Tour coming into 2022 but has used her Epson Tour membership to help improve her game and build her confidence at the five LPGA events she has played this season. In fact, Darquea was debating whether to even play in Portland this week or play on the Epson Tour. She said she made the right choice.
“It was rough at the beginning of the year, losing the card, going back to Epson,” said Darquea, who shot seven birdies and a bogey on Sunday to earn her second-place spot. “I know I have the game to be here. I just need to keep the mental game going as it is.”
Five players share the third-place position, including third-round co-leaders Furue and Vu, 2019 Portland Classic champion Hannah Green, German golfer Esther Henseleit and Korean Narin An. An’s bogey-free 64 allowed her to jump up the leaderboard from T14 to T3. Her -8 round was only bested by Bianca Pagdanganan, whose 9-under 63 was the best 18-hole score of the week at Columbia Edgewater. Making her LPGA Tour membership debut, Maja Stark earned an eighth-place finish with a 6-under final round that saw her in an early lead after five consecutive birdies at holes 4-8.