Alexa Pano survives three-way playoff at ISPS Handa World Invitational to notch first LPGA win on her 19th birthday
It was the happiest of birthdays for Alexa Pano.
She rang in her 19th year of life by claiming her maiden LPGA win, defeating Gabriella Cowley with a birdie on the third playoff hole of the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland.
“I’ve kind of been saying that I really wanted to win this event because it’s on my birthday,” Pano said after becoming the youngest winner on tour this year. “My best friend can contest it’s been for like two months. It feels so surreal that it’s happened.”
Pano became a recognizable name roughly 10 years ago when she was featured in “The Short Game,” a Netflix documentary. Last year, she bypassed a collegiate career to turn pro and earned her LPGA card at Q-Series in the fall.
Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa World Invitational: Men | Women
Her rookie year, however, didn’t bring immediate success. Entering this week, Pano’s best finish in an individual event was a T-22 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. She also missed six cuts in 11 starts, including five in a row between March and June.
It appeared another lackluster result may be on the horizon when Pano opened the ISPS with a 76. However, the Massachusetts native crawled her way toward the top of the leaderboard with a second-round 70 and a third-round 69. Then, she tied the low round of the day with a final-round 6-under 66 and finished her round as the clubhouse leader at 8 under.
England’s Cowley and Germany’s Esther Henseleit would force a three-way playoff — and on the first bonus hole, Pano and Cowley birdied while Henseleit carded a par.
On the second playoff hole, Pano saved par despite hitting her tee shot into the trees, but Henseleit missed a short birdie putt that would have given her the victory.
Pano took advantage of the second chance, making birdie on the next go-around to become the third rookie to win on tour this year, alongside Rose Zhang and Grace Kim.
“Just feels so surreal right now,” Pano said. “I can’t actually process that that just happened.”
Pano, however, wasn’t the only one in the winner’s circle Sunday in Northern Ireland. The event was co-sanctioned with the European Ladies Tour and DP World Tour, with Daniel Brown winning the men’s side for his maiden victory at 15 under, five strokes ahead of runner-up Alex Fitzpatrick.