60th Seed Baena Wins Match Play Title

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GLADSTONE, N.J. -- Marisa Baena, ranked 60th in the 64-player field, parred the final hole Sunday to defeat 47th-seeded Meena Lee, 1-up and win the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.
 
The win was her first on the LPGA Tour and she pocketed $500,000 for the victory, the richest first-place prize in LPGA Tour history. That's big for someone who had only made $87,258 so far in the 2005 season.
 
Marisa Baena
Marisa Baena knocked off six straight higher seeds en route to the Match Play title.
'It's been a great week,' said Baena. 'I have no words. That's almost what I've made my entire career. I made $30,000 last year and here I made $500,000 in a week.'
 
Baena established a 3-up lead on the back nine, but Lee never relented. At the 15th, Baena missed a 25-footer for birdie, while Lee holed a 12-footer to win the hole and trail 2-down.
 
Lee, who hit first on almost every hole because Baena is longer off the tee, hit her approach to 15 feet at the 16th. Baena was 20 feet short of the hole and came up 2 feet short with her birdie putt. Lee once again holed the tester and now her deficit was only 1-down with two to play.
 
Lee looked to be in trouble at the par-3 17th when she missed the green left. Baena hit a 7-iron 15 feet short of the hole, then watched Lee chip to 8 feet. Baena had a chance to win the title, but her putt never touched the hole. Lee drained the par save to stay 1-down and force the final to reach No. 18.
 
At the 18th, both players found the fairway off the tee and Lee came up 40 feet short with a 7-wood. Baena landed 25 feet over the flag with her second.
 
Lee hit a tentative putt that left her 6 feet for par. Baena needed two putts to win the title and she lagged her birdie try to tap-in range. Lee conceded the match and title to Baena.
 
'It's amazing,' said Baena. 'My husband is here, my dad is here, so it's even more special for me.'
 
Baena came to the tour with a lot of promise. She lost the 1996 U.S. Amateur title to Kelli Kuehne, but had an amazing collegiate career at the University of Arizona. Baena won 10 tournaments, including the 1996 NCAA Individual title.
 
Lee, who was not even in the field last week at the U.S. Women's Open, took her second runner-up finish in this her rookie year. She tied for second at the LPGA Corning Classic.
 
Baena took the lead several times on the front nine, but Lee almost always squared the match.
 
Lee never played in a single match-play event before this week and it showed at the par-five ninth. She went through the green with her third, then chipped through on the other side with her fourth. Baena was in there close, putting for birdie, but Lee conceded instead of taking a shot with her chip and maybe holing out for par. If Baena missed the birdie putt, and Lee made her long chip, the hole would have been halved, but Lee conceded to fall 2-down.
 
Lee answered with a 10-footer for birdie at the 10th to cut the margin in half.
 
Baena built a 2-up lead at the 11th when she rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt and Lee failed to capitalize from 4 feet. Baena gave one back thanks to a poor tee shot in the bunker at 12, but she reclaimed a 2-up edge at 13. She rolled in a 7-footer for birdie at the par-4 hole.
 
Baena reached the green in two at the par-5 14th. She had 35 feet for eagle and Lee had almost the same distance for birdie. Baena lagged her birdie try close to the hole, but once Lee missed her birdie putt, she perhaps conceded early as Baena had almost 2 feet left. Baena went 3-up until Lee's dramatic comeback attempt.
 
Baena ousted Natalie Gulbis (No. 5), Grace Park (No. 37), Jennifer Rosales (No. 21) and Karrie Webb (No. 29) en route to the semifinals, where she beat Candie Kung (No. 8), 2-up.
 
Lee defeated Hee-Won Han (No. 18), Kim Saiki (No. 50), Liselotte Neumann (No. 31) and Pat Hurst (No. 39), and Wendy Ward (No. 14) to make the final match.
 
In the consolation match, Ward overcame a 3-down deficit to defeat Kung, 2 and 1. Ward ran in a pair of 15-foot birdie putts at 15 and 17 to close the door on Kung, who bested No. 1 seed Annika Sorenstam in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - HSBC Womens World Match Championship

  • Full Coverage - HSBC Womens World Match Championship