LPGA players reflect on the Drive on Championship at Great Waters

Written by Hunter PR

Happy 28th Birthday Ally McDonald! It was quite a party.

The talented golfer from Mississippi earned her first LPGA Tour victory on Sunday in front of her family and scores of boaters, kayakers, and jet skis anchored in the cove off Great Waters' 18th hole.

"It's the best birthday present ever," McDonald said as she walked off the final green at 16 under par to receive champagne showers after becoming a Rolex First-Time winner. The four-year LPGA Tour player said she was proud of the resiliency she showed over the final holes to win by one stroke over five-time LPGA Tour winner Danielle Kang.

Great Waters and its magnificent Lake Oconee shoreline shone all week for the best women golfers in the world. Aerial footage showcased during 12 hours of Golf Channel coverage proved to be a hit with viewers and golf fans worldwide — not to mention players' reactions to the course and spectators who formed an on-the-water gallery of pontoon boats, jet skis and other leisure crafts.

"Since quarantine we haven't had any fans," said Lydia Ko, "so it's nice here, especially on the back nine by the water. A lot of these people with their boats are coming out and clapping for us. It's always nice to kind of feel like we're playing in front of crowds again."

"You can definitely feel the southern hospitality here," added Katherine Kirk. "Considering this is our very first time at Reynolds Lake Oconee, it's amazing. Maybe Mike Whan [LPGA Tour Commissioner and Reynolds Lake Oconee member] gave them a head's up to come out and cheer for us. Who knows? It's fun to see this many people out on their boats , coming out from their houses, and just staking a chair on the out-of-bounds lines."

Rookie sensation Bianca Pagdanganan, who finished two shots behind McDonald, was one of many pros impressed by the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

"During my first practice round, I was on the back nine and the sun was setting and it was so beautiful. I kid you not, I was stopping on every green taking any picture I could. I really enjoyed everything. I'm hoping we can come back here next year. It's so beautiful." Bianca Pagdanganan
Bianca Pagdanganan concentrates on her putt at the LPGA Drive On Championship

"This golf course is scenic," said Mel Reid. "I've never been in this area so it's a really pleasant surprise and a pleasure to play. It's just so cool seeing all the boats, too."

Gerina Piller, who competed in the 2014 Big Break Invitational at Great Waters, weighed in.

"I think the first thing that comes to mind here is hospitality. they welcomed us with open arms and it was just awesome. The course was great and I think we played some different tees from those used in the Big Break. I know the greens were different and have been redone by Mr. Nicklaus." Gerina Piller
Beautiful drive on hole #12 at Great Waters for the LPGA Drive On Championship

"This golf course was obviously new to everybody," said Champion, Ally McDonald. "I try really hard when I get to a golf course that's new to not put a number in my head and just play steady golf. I do think there are a few holes you have to respect, but there are a few shorter holes, too, that you can take on depending on where the pin is placed." That she did.

A bit more about the winner:

  • McDonald's 272 is the second-lowest 72-hole score of her career
  • She becomes the first player from Mississippi State to win on the LPGA Tour
  • This is the first time McDonald has held a 54-hole lead in her LPGA Tour career
  • She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
  • She was a member of the 2019 U.S. Solheim Cup Team
  • While at Mississippi State, McDonald was a two-time First-Team All-American
  • She played on the victorious 2014 U.S. Curtis Cup Team

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