Four days and 72 holes just weren’t enough to determine the winner of the LPGA Tour’s 2020 season kickoff event, the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
It took Mexico’s Gaby Lopez seven playoff holes – two in 45-degree weather on the morning of a fifth day – to capture the professional title.
Lopez and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka went toe-to-toe, swapping pars for five holes on Sunday, Jan. 19 before play was suspend because of darkness. The pair returned the next morning to continue their faceoff and, after just two holes, Lopez successfully clinched the win with a breathtaking 25-foot birdie putt.
“I proved to myself that I can win in any situation,” Lopez told Golf Channel after finishing. “My first win was in the lead, and now my second win was coming from behind. Being able to put all those moments together and recall them while I’m walking on the fairway here and try to stay patient. I think that’s what I proved to myself the most. It was my ability to stay in the moment.”
Lopez was joined in the winner’s circle by the celebrity champion, baseball Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who successfully defended his title becoming a two-time winner of the unique tournament.
Playing a modified Stableford scoring format, Smoltz finished with 150 points – far ahead of his competitors. American tennis professional Mardy Fish finished second with 141 points and two-time All-Star pitcher Mark Mulder finished third with 138 points.
“This was a big week for me,” Smoltz said. “Besides the defending part, I wanted to see how my body was going to hold up walking five days. I brought my trainer in. But this is a big hurdle mentally because, when you get tired or you get stiff, you’ve still got to make a good golf swing, and I was able to make enough of them. Fortunately, I had a nice lead coming into the last four holes, which helps.”
The tournament was held Jan. 16-19, 2020 at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and featured 26 LPGA Tour winners from the previous two seasons playing alongside 49 sports and entertainment celebrities. While the LPGA professionals competed for $1.2 million in official prize money, the celebrities played for their own $500,000 purse.
All four days were nationally televised, with Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel, and Saturday and Sunday on NBC. Monday’s playoff holes were also televised live during a special edition of Golf Channel’s Morning Drive.
But the real action was on the course.
Fans packed Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club all four days to see their favorite players and experience the one-of-a-kind event.
Details about the 2021 event are expected to be released later this year. Stay tuned to DiamondLPGA.com and #DiamondLPGA on Twitter and Instagram for information.