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Alexa Pano earns first LPGA win on 19th birthday at ISPS Handa World Invitational

Alexa Pano got her first LPGA win for her birthday.

The teenage phenom turned 19 on Sunday and picked up a hard-earned victory at the 2023 ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle Golf club in Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Pano took down both Esther Henseleit and Gabriella Cowley – who all finished regulation at 8 under – in a three-way, three-hole playoff. Henseleit was eliminated first with a bogey on the par-5 18th. Pano and Cowley made par to force a third playing of No. 18, where Pano won with birdie.

“Gosh, this is so surreal. I mean, I still haven’t processed it,” said Pano after the round. “I couldn’t process it on 18 green, but still, kind of sinking in right now. Just so cool.”

MORE: Prize money payouts for the ISPS Handa World Invitational.

“Yeah, definitely was not conservative at all today,” said Pano. “I struggled a little bit off the tee, but other than that I was able to be aggressive. Luckily my putter was hot today, so that was helpful.”

Pano shot a 6-under 66 in the final round and forced a playoff with a pair of birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 after a late bogey on the par-4 16th. The Florida native didn’t know the situation on the leaderboard until someone on No. 17 made a comment.

“He was like, ‘shouldn’t have made bogey there.’ Kind of rude, but it motivated me to make two birdies back-to-back,” said Pano. “And so I did know going into 17, but that’s the only reason why. Those back-to-back birdies I knew I had to do, and luckily I did.”

After she earned her card for the season via LPGA Q-Series, Pano has made just five cuts in her rookie year, with one top-20 finish in addition to her win in 12 starts. She’s the third rookie to win this season and one of eight first-time winners on the season.

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool,” Pano said of the fact that she’s the youngest winner of the season at 19. “Was almost 18 but I guess I’m just better at 19.”

Before skipping college to turn professional, Pano had a decorated junior golf career and was a three-time Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist and the youngest player in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She also featured in the 2012 Netflix documentary, The Short Game.

Three playoff holes later…@alexapanogolf wins the @World_Inv_Golf
on her 19th birthday for her first career LPGA victory! pic.twitter.com/x8MiBo0xkn

— LPGA (@LPGA) August 20, 2023

Daniel Brown wins mens title at ISPS

The ISPS Handa World Invitational is a unique event on the schedule as it features two competitions being held at the same time with 144 women and 144 men playing for $1.5 million in prize money.

On the men’s side, Daniel Brown ran away with a five-shot victory to claim his first victory in just his 20th start. Brown had just three top-10 starts entering the week, with a best finish of T-5 in March at the South African Open.

“It feels amazing. I could never have dreamed this up in the past however many years and months,” said Brown. “(My mom was) blubbering down the phone. I’m over the moon, but it probably hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know. I almost still feel like someone’s going to crop up and say there’s another day left or something. Crazy.”

Brown took the lead on Thursday with a 6-under 64 and cruised to victory in the final round with a 1-under 69. Alex Fitzpatrick (68) finished second at 10 under, with Eddie Pepperell (68) in third at 7 under.

Unique event not on future schedule

This event, which showcases LPGA, LET and DP World Tour players, is not on the 2024 DP World Tour schedule, which was released last week.

Organizers told BBC Sport there are plans for another big event in the region, but the mixed format – in which male and female players compete for the same size purse – will not be extended.

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