Cheyenne Woods won the Australian Ladies Masters for her first major professional tour victory, holding off 17-year-old Australian amateur Minjee Lee by two strokes.
The 23-year-old Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, closed with a 4-under 69 at Royal Pines to finish at 16-under 276. Lee also shot 69 in the event sanctioned by both the European and Australian tours.
Woods birdied the par-5 15th to open a two-stroke lead, hitting a wedge from about 120 yards to four feet. On the par-5 18th, she matched Lee with a birdie.
From Phoenix, Woods is the daughter of Earl Dennison Woods Jr, Tiger Woods’ half brother. She turned professional in 2012 after an All-America career at Wake Forest and her only previous professional victory came in 2012 in a SunCoast mini-tour event. In December, she missed the cut in the LPGA Tour’s qualifying tournament in a failed bid to earn a spot on the circuit.
She held back tears yesterday as she spoke of the significance of winning a Ladies European Tour event. “This is a huge accomplishment for me,” she said. “The European Tour has been great to be able to play this past year.
“I’ve been able to see all of these great players, play with Solheim Cup members. To be able to come out here and compete with them and come out on top was huge for me.
“All off-season I was just getting ready with my coach back home and he told me he thought that this is my year, my time to finally get a win and to have it this early in the season is exciting, especially with the European Tour and then here in Australia.
“I’m just really proud with how I played this week and followed through all four days and finished strong.
“To start out with a birdie really got me off to a good start. Yesterday was really up and down but today I was steady. I felt really calm, I felt really good with my game. I was confident, I trusted it and, overall, there was just a calm over me all day.”
Woods said she had learned to live with the pressure of expectation that came with bearing a famous golfing name.
“I’ve been pro for two years and, for the majority of it, people just think of me as Tiger Woods’ niece, so now I have a game of my own and I have a title now, a win, which is exciting,” she said. “It’s nice now to say to people that I can play and I’m not just a name.
“Growing up with the last name of Woods, there’s a lot of expectations and pressure and spotlight on you but I always knew that I was able to win.
“I always knew I’d be able to compete with these ladies, so now it’s kind of a weight off my shoulders because now everybody knows not just me.
“I missed the cut last week by two shots in New Zealand, 77, 71, but I came into this week with a new mindset, I worked on a few things and everything just kind of clicked. It worked out really well. After the first round I knew I could win, so from there on out that was the goal.”
Woods’ win earned her A$57,000 (£31,000) in prize money and a two-year exemption for the Ladies European Tour events.
Woods will play next week in the LPGA Tour-sanctioned Women’s Australian Open in Victoria.
South Africa’s Stacy Lee Bregman and Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth tied for third at 12 under.
Lee said she was happy with her performance. She added: “I haven’t really been in this situation before so I am happy with how I played today and, hopefully, there are many more to come.
“Everything was just solid so I thought I had a great chance before coming into the tournament. I was steady. Some of my outs didn’t drop but I am happy with the results.”