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The 34-year-old overcame a three-shot deficit by birdieing four of her first five holes on Sunday and went on to a one-shot win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer. She finished 54 holes over the Bay Course at the Dolce Seaview Resort at 14-under par 199. Hyo Joo Kim finished alone in second place at 13-under par 200 after a closing 68; she nearly chipped in for an eagle at the final green that would have forced a playoff. Yan Liu wound up third after a 67 put her at 202.
It was Buhai’s second LPGA win; her first came at the AIG Women’s Open last August, and her fourth worldwide in the last 10 months. In between she claimed the Handa ISPS Women’s Australian Open in December and the Investec South African Women’s Open in March.
Buhai started the final round three shots behind 36-hole leader Dani Holmqvisit and two shots behind Liu but powered her way to the top of the leaderboard with birdies at the first, second, fourth, and fifth and followed with a birdie at the eighth to make the turn in 5-under par 32.
Her only stumble was a three-putt bogey at the 11th which was followed by a birdie at the 13th.
At the 18th, a reachable par five, she was just off the front of the green in two, 24 meters from the flagstick and chipped to within two meters to set up her seventh birdie of the day.
Buhai was a perfect 14 for 14 finding the fairway off the tee. She also credited a hot putter.
“That’s been a huge turnaround,” she said. “I’ve always been a very good feel putter, but I went through the ebbs and flows with what we’ve put in place and just do every week.”
Buhai says she’s confident that if she puts in the necessary work the results will take care of themselves.
“We’re focusing more on the process and not the outcome and what I can control. I really only have one thought about everything. One thought with the swing, one thought with the chipping, one thought with the putting.”
As hot as her putter burned during the final round, Buhai felt one of the keys to her week was keeping her game together during the opening round, which led to a 2-under par 69.
“That was huge,” she said. “I think a lot of players after their first round would have been over par, but mentally, I backed myself. I know I’ve been playing good golf and just had to hang in there.
Buhai becomes the second South African to become a multiple winner on the LPGA Tour, joining Sally Little who claimed LPGA wins during her career, including two majors.
“That’s huge,” Buhai said. “We’re a small country. We’ve not had too many female professionals come out of South Africa. I’m just glad that I’ve finally been able to do it.”
Words: Rick Woelfel