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Links comeback: Soo Bin Joo overcomes deficit to win rain-shortened Island Resort women’s golf event on Epson Tour

HARRIS — Entering the final day of the 2024 Island Resort Championship, 20-year-old South Korean golfer Soo Bin Joo was four strikes off the lead after taking a shooting a 5-under-par 67 on Friday.

By the time she finished the 18th hole on Sunday, she was in the lead with a cumulative score of 8-under. And after waiting for just 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 a different element as opposed to those of events past. This event was shortened to two rounds of 36 holes instead of its traditional three-round, 54-hole shindig.

That move was forced on tournament organizers after half the field began playing their second round on Saturday morning before a steady, heavy rain made Sweetgrass Golf Club unplayable.

Anne Chen follows through on a tee shot on the opening day of the Island Resort Championship on Friday in Harris. (Courtesy photo Epson Tour)

After hours of waiting and optimism about the course’s condition improving, the Epson Tour — the official qualifying tour of the Ladies Professional Golf Association — decided to suspend the day’s action and finish the event in 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 had to wait another day before playing their final round.

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

She had to catch Anne Chen, who tied the course record for single-round score with a 9-under 63 on Friday. It was a four-stroke hole for her to dig out of, but Joo made birdies on the par-4 No. 8 and par-3 No. 12 on Sunday to reach 7-under.

Meanwhile, Chen finished with a bogey and eight pars on her front nine, leaving Joo within a single stroke of the lead.

Former University of Wisconsin golfer Tess Hackworthy received an exemption to play in the June 21-23, 2024, Island Resort Championship on the Epson Tour women’s professional golf tour. She recently won the Wisconsin State Women’s Open over former Badger teammate and 2023 Island Resort exempt player Bobbi Stricker. The Island Resort Championship was hosted by Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Then came the island par-3 15th hole.

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

While she didn’t make that putt, she did get the ball within five feet for another putt for par. That putt reached 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.

But Joo rallied by rattling off back-to-back birdies on holes No. 16 and 17 to get to 8-under.

Chen was also at 8-under when she approached the island hole, but her tee shot landed on the front right part of the green before taking three hops and landing in the water.

Her re-teed shot 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 that would limit the damage.

But similar to Joo, Chen’s relatively short putt hit the right edge of the cup, lipped out and wound up left of the hole. Chen had to settle for double-bogey, falling to 6-under and two strokes behind Joo.

With three straight pars, she stayed at that score in her third Epson Tour event, coming weeks after the end of her senior year at Duke University, to actually fall into a tie for seventh with 10 other competitors.

“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 all finished at 7-under to tie for second place. In total, 68 competitors finished under par this weekend.

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