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Soo Bin Joo, who knew: Joo rallies to win Island Resort Championship

Joo rallies to win Island Resort Championship

Epson Tour golfer Soo Bin Joo, 20, poses for a photo with her 2024 Island Resort Championship trophy on the No. 18 green of Sweetgrass Golf Club on June 23, 2024 in Harris, Mi. Joo, from Seoul, South Korea, won the event with a two-day score of 136 (-8). ("The Big Dog" Mitch Vosburg/Daily Press)

HARRIS — Entering the final day of the 2024 Island Resort Championship, Seoul, South Korea’s Soo Bin Joo, 20, was four strikes off the lead after taking a -5 (67) on Friday.

By the time she finished hole No. 18 on Sunday she was in the lead with a cumulative score of -8. And after waiting a shade over an hour, Joo was crowned Island Resort Champion.

“I still can’t believe it,” Joo said. “I just popped up from out of nowhere. I didn’t know I was playing well, but I’m glad that I finished in first place.”

The 2024 iteration of this Epson Tour event featured one different element as opposed to those of events passed. This event was a 36-hole event instead of a traditional 54-hole shindig.

Half of the field began playing their typical second round on Saturday morning. But a steady, heavy rain made Sweetgrass Golf Club unplayable.

After multiple hours of waiting and optimism of the course’s condition improving, the Epson Tour decided to suspend Saturday’s action and play 36 holes. Those who were already playing were scheduled to resume their second round as they were prior to suspension of play. Those who had yet to tee off were left waiting another day before playing their final round.

Joo was one of those individuals who waited all day Saturday. And she made the most of it on Sunday.

But she had to catch Anne Chen, who tied the course record for single-round score with a -9 (63) on Friday. It was a four-stroke hole to dig out of, but Joo’s birdies on the No. 8 par 4 and on the No. 12 par 3 got her to -7. Chen finished with one bogey and eight pars on her front nine, putting Joo within one stroke.

Then came hole No. 15, the island par 3.

Joo’s tee shot put her on the back middle portion of the green. A downhill, right-to-left putt approximately 50 feet needed to be drained if she wanted to birdie.

She didn’t make the putt, but got herself within five feet for par. But her par putt started on the right edge of the cup, rolled around the lip up the cup and spit back out onto the green left of the hole.

She settled for bogey with the three putt to fall two strokes off the lead. Joo then rattled off back-to-back birdies on holes No. 16 and 17 to get to -8.

Chen remained at -8 when she approached No. 15, but her tee shot landed on the front right portion of the green and took three hops before landing in the water. Her ensuing re-tee landed 10 feet above and slightly left of the cup, and with a thunderous amount of backspin she set up a 13-foot downhill, left-to-right putt for bogey and limit the damage.

But similar to Joo, Chen’s putt hit the right edge of the cup, lipped out and wound up left of the hole. Chen settled for double bogey, falling to -6 in the process. And with three-straight pars, she stayed at -6 in her third Epson Tour event, coming weeks after the end of her senior year at Duke University.

“Being the leader for two days was a lot to take in,” Chen said. “It was a lot of fun. I love to be out there and have fun.”

Ingrid Lindblad, Kaleigh Telfer, Maria Torres, Saki Baba and Kim Kaufman tied for second place at -7. Chen, along with 10 other competitors, tied for seventh at -6. In total, 68 competitors finished under par this weekend.

The Epson Tour continues with the Dream First Bank Charity Classic in Garden City, KS.

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