WINNING FEELING: Katherine Kirk celebrates after sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole during the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic golf tournament.
WINNING FEELING: Katherine Kirk celebrates after sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole during the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic golf tournament. Jim Matthews

Aussie golfer breaks seven year LPGA drought

QUEENSLAND golfer Katherine Kirk snapped a seven-year drought on the LPGA Tour by sliding home a perfect 3m birdie putt on the final hole to win the Thornberry Classic.

The joy gushed from her instantly with hip-high fist pumps and a smile even broader than when she last tasted a triumph in the US in 2010.

This win in Wisconsin means so much more to the likeable pro from Sunrise Beach on Queensland's Sunshine Coast because there have been moments when she doubted there would be another win on the elite tour.

Over the past few years, she has gone through myriad swing changes, lost and rediscovered her excellent stroke on the greens, married her American husband Tom and seen a wave of young, fearless starlets pass her on tour.

"I can't put it into words. It's just a great feeling,” Kirk said beside the final green with her eyes moistening.

"(It's taken) so much hard work and patience and I had a rough couple of years like 2015 and 2016.

"I've just got an amazing team behind me, my husband has been 100 per cent supportive the whole time.”

Kirk entered the final round leading by four shots, set up by her superb nine-under-par 63 in the second round.

It was a mixed bag through the opening 10 holes with three birdies and as many bogeys while South African playing partner Ashleigh Buhai pushed hard on her way to a fine 67.

There was only a one-shot margin between the pair when Kirk made a bogey from the bunker on the par three 17th.

Kirk needed to hook a final iron to the closing green to avoid a large tree and did so perfectly. Buhai kept the Aussie honest with a superb shot to inside a metre for a certain birdie and a tying play if Kirk missed her putt.

"To be honest, I hit a really low spot around the 14th where I said 'I need something to happen here', because I was just struggling,” Hull said.

"Ashleigh played great all day, put the pressure on me. Pretty fun finish there, I knew I had to make it.”

Katherine Kirk lines up a putt during the second round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic golf tournament.
Katherine Kirk lines up a putt during the second round of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic golf tournament. Jim Matthews

After finishing second at the Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast in 2015, she missed 12 cuts when she hit the LPGA Tour in the US that year and the former world top-20 player had slumped to No.227 in the rankings by the time she returned to the Gold Coast a year later.

"My worse year since 2006 was really frustrating but you can't let one season define your career or how you feel,” Kirk said at the time of 2015.

Kirk's Thornberry Classic success adds to her wins on the LPGA Tour at the 2008 Canadian Open and the 2010 Navistar Classic.

Not qualifying for big events late in 2015 had one upside because Kirk and her husband Tom were able to break ground on their new home in Kansas.

Of course, a golf net and simulator were sketched in for the home gym for the chill winter months.

The $394,000 first prize is a windfall but proving she still has the game means so much more.

The win also earns her entry to the US Women's Open starting at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey from Thursday.



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