GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Cristie Kerr won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour victory in more than two years, and Stacy Lewis tied for fourth to wrap up the player of the year award.
Kerr parred the final three holes at Guadalajara Country Club to hold off Angela Stanford and third-round leader Inbee Park by a stroke.
“Coming in those last couple of holes it didn’t feel like I had won before,” Kerr said. “I kind of just squeaked in. I won by a shot. That’s all that it takes. I’ve lost plenty of tournaments by a shot, but winning by a shot feels a lot better.”
The 35-year-old American finished at 16-under 272 for her 15th LPGA Tour title and first since the LPGA Championship in June 2010.
She holed a 4-foot par putt on No. 18 for the victory.
“Yeah, I was nervous,” Kerr said. “I haven’t been in this position to win in a while. To even have one putt to win, or two putts to win, I wasn’t nervous for messing up, but it was hard to control the amount of adrenaline that was in my system.
“I just tried to take some breaths and calm myself down and I still can’t believe how hard I hit that first putt. I gave the fans and myself a heart attack, but I stayed in there mentally until the end.”
Stanford shot 68, and Park had a 72.
The second-ranked Lewis, coming off her tour-leading fourth victory of the year last week in Japan, is the first American player of the year since Beth Daniel in 1994.
“After I finally made my last putt there on 18, I think it finally hit me,” Lewis said. “It’s just crazy to think that there have been so many great American players and I am the one after Beth in ‘94. It’s just crazy to even think of.”
Lewis closed with a 68 to match Candie Kung at 4 under. Kung also shot 68.
“I’m really happy for her,” Stanford said about Lewis. “She’s a great person and probably has a bigger heart than she is player. I mean she’s just a great girl and I’m very happy for her. So, I think it’s great.”
Park needed to win the event and the season-ending Titleholders to have a chance to pass Lewis in the player of the year standings.
“I’ll just try to enjoy myself next week because I tried to put too much pressure on myself this week,” Park said. “Next week will be better.”
The South Korean player has two victories this year and leads the money list.
“Everything has improved in my game and I’m really just happy I’m in contention almost every week,” Park said. “That’s given me a lot of experience and it gives me a lot more to do next year.”
Suzann Pettersen finished with a 69 to tie 12th at 7 under. She won in South Korea and Taiwan in her previous two starts.
Michelle Wie tied for 14th at 6 under after a 74.
Ochoa finished with a 71 to tie for 19th at 4 under. The Mexican star won 27 LPGA Tour titles before retiring at age 28 in 2010.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng tied for 26th in the 36-player field, closing with a 72 to finish at 1 over.
Charlie Beljan’s wins
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Charlie Beljan felt as if his heart was about to burst out of his chest Sunday at Disney, and he couldn’t have felt better.
This wasn’t another panic attack gone wild, like the one that sent him to the hospital in an ambulance after the second round and made him feel like he was going to die. This was the prospect of winning on the PGA Tour for the first time.
The roller coasters at the Magic Kingdom are nothing like what Beljan went through in the final PGA Tour event of the year.
Two days after he was wheeled out of the scoring room on a stretcher, the 28-year-old rookie was celebrating on the 18th green as the band played “Zippity-Do-Dah.” He arrived at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic with his job in jeopardy, and left with a two-year exemption that will send him to Maui at the start of the year, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and lots of other tournaments where winners belong.
“Every day I drove underneath that Disney sign coming in here that said, ‘Where dreams come true,’ and that’s just what happened this week,” Beljan said after closing with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot win. “And I’m so grateful and so honored.”
By the sound of it, he was lucky to be playing.
Beljan could hardly breathe and his blood pressure spiked during his second round, when paramedics followed him around the back nine. After sleeping for only an hour or so in the hospital after a variety of tests, he played Saturday fearful of having another panic attack. And when he awoke Sunday morning, his head was throbbing and his stomach felt queasy.
Once he got on the golf course, the rest was easy.
Beljan ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn, twice knocking in putts from around 30 feet, and built a five-shot lead. A double bogey made it close, but only until he made birdie on the next hole. He tapped in one last putt, tossed his putter to the side of the green, pumped his fist in celebration and hoisted his 7-week-old son.
Robert Garrigus and Matt Every each closed with a 68 and tied for second.
“It was incredible,” Beljan said. “I was happy that I was a PGA Tour champion. I was happy that my wife and my baby were here. It still isn’t real.”
Just three weeks ago, he feared he would have to go to the second stage of Q-school, no guarantee that he would have a tour card for next year. Suddenly, he can make plans for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, for events hosted by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
“I don’t know what other perks come with winning, but I know every single one of them is pretty darn good,” he said.
Beljan finished on 16-under 272 and became the fourth rookie to win on tour this year.
Tim Herron was the other big winner Sunday, closing with a 69 to tie for ninth. That gave him enough money to move from No. 138 to No. 124 on the money list, giving him his full card for the 2013 season.
Kevin Chappell finished at No. 125. He wound up $1,809 ahead of Jerry Kelly, but Chappell wasn’t safe until Charlie Wi and Josh Teater each made par on the last hole. If either had made bogey, Kelly would have moved up one position — from a six-way tie for ninth to a seven-way tie for eighth — that would have allowed him to pass Chappell.
Instead, Kelly is out of the top 125 for the first time in his career.
Beljan earned $846,000 for the victory, capping a long, hectic season in which he learned he was going to be a father, got married in March and first began suffering panic attacks after he passed out on a flight home from the Reno-Tahoe Open in early August.
Beljan showed a few signs that he might crack. He three-putted from behind the fifth green, and then was disgusted with an approach that just missed the green to the left on No. 7. After getting a drop because his left foot was on a sprinkler head, he rolled in an 18-foot birdie off the green, screamed “Go!” at a wedge that obeyed him and settled a foot away for a tap-in birdie on the eighth, and then holed a 30-foot birdie on the ninth.
He’s so long off the tee that the par-5 10th was the easiest of his four straight birdies, and when he knocked in a 30-footer on No. 12, Beljan’s lead was up to five shots.
There was only one nervous moment after that.
Instead of playing it safe off the tee at the 13th, he hit driver into the woods, went into a bunker, then across the green, and made a quick double bogey. Garrigus made a birdie ahead of him on the 14th, and suddenly, the lead was only two shots.
No need to panic.
Beljan’s 12-foot birdie putt on the 14th caught just enough of the right side of the cup to fall. Garrigus didn’t make another birdie, and Beljan’s only other big blunder was knocking a birdie attempt some 7 feet by the cup at No. 16. He made that one coming back for par, and reached the 18th tee with a three-shot lead.
Typical of the final event of the year, all the drama was on the ever-changing money list.
Herron looked to be in good shape until he hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th hole and made double bogey, and then had a 20-foot birdie putt hang on the edge of the cup on the 18th. He figured he needed that to get his card, and walking off the green he stepped on his bag and gave it a swift kick. He was ready to give the bag another kick when Golf Channel announcer Billy Andrade said he might be safe.
Wi and Teater, playing one group apart, hit the fairway and the green on the 18th for regulation pars to spare Chappell, who started the week at No. 123. Teater, in the final group, ran his birdie putt about 2½ feet by the hole, but knocked that in and Chappell was safe.
Chappell tweeted, “Well I am glad that is over thanks for all the support. I look forward to improving this off season and making sure this never happens again.”