HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida – You could sense excitement mixed with uneasiness as 69 golfers teed off on the magnificently-groomed El Campeon Course in the final round of the 2023 Inova Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship. The outcome of this Epson Tour event is a life-changing moment for the winner on her journey toward earning the “Golden Key” that opens the door to a professional golf career on the LPGA Tour.
It was beautiful Memorial Day Weekend at the Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship with a golf course that made this 54-hole championship a monumental challenge. El Campeón is one of the South’s oldest golf courses and blends unusual Central Florida elevation changes of more than 85 feet with features of traditional golf design, including lightning-fast greens, undulating fairways, and tight tree lined fairways that presented each player with a tough road travel to the LPGA.
After the second round, the leaderboard showed that a few young ladies know what it takes to win a LPGA qualifying tournament on the Epson Tour. Holding down 1st place was Roberta Liti -8 (Siena Italy), 2nd place Jiwon Jeon -7 (Daegu, Republic of Korea), 3rd Place Lindy Duncan -6 (Plantation, FL), 4th place Cydney Clanton -5 (Concord, NC), Tied for 5th Place were Pinyada Kuvanun -4 ( Khonkaen, Thailand), Jenny Coleman  -4 (Rolling Hills Estates, CA), and Haylee Rae Harford -4 (Leavittsburg, OH).
Sunday morning’s leaderboard had 13 players within 5 shots of the leader with 3 of them Ranked in the Top 10 on tour this year. Looked like the stage was set for someone to “go low” to earn the title of “El Conquistador of El Campeon.” The final round will have some players facing their “baptism under fire” fighting off pre-round jitters as they step up to the first tee with their names at the top of the leaderboard. It’s a dream come true, but the ending is waiting to play itself out.
Jiwon Jeon (Daegu, Republic of Korea) was the winner of this year’s 2023 Inova EPSON Tour Mission Inn & Golf Resort. This was her first win on the Tour and took home a $30,000.00 check for her efforts. Her final 54-hole total of 10-under par was two shots better than the 2nd place finishers Alyaa Abdulghany (Newport Beach, CA) and Lindy Duncan (Plantation, FL) who both finished at 8-under par and will receive $16,273.00 each.
Roberta Liti -7 finished in 4th place for $10,647.00. Min Yoon-6 (Seoul, Republic of Korea) and Haylee Rae Harford-6 (Leavittsburg, OH) finished tied for 5th place and will both receive $7,838.00. Rounding out the top 10 finishers, Nishtha Madan-7 (Delhi, India), Natasha Andrea Oon-7  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Pinyada Kuvanun-7 (Khonkaen, Thailand) and Cydney Clanton-7 (Concord, NC) all tied for 7th place, and each received a check for $5,054.00.
In a sparkling Memorial Day weekend performance, Jiwon stepped up with an impressive final round 3-under par 70. She was the first-round leader with a 7under par 63 and but found herself in 2nd place at the end of the second round 1 stroke behind Roberta Liti-8 (Siena, Italy) heading into today’s final round. At one point, on the back nine, Jiwon was only one stroke ahead of three players.
On the Par 5 17th hole she decided that she needed some breathing room heading into the home stretch. Faced with a 2nd shot from just under 200 yards to a waterfront raised green she hit a 3 wood into the back left side bunker. She needed to hit a perfect shot, to a lightning-fast sloping green, that would take just the slightest mistake down to the water. This was the tournament’s risk or reward moment that resulted in a birdie putt and a 2-shot lead heading to the 18th hole.
Upon receiving her winner’s share of today’s purse, along with a Chrystal Vase trophy, Jiwon addressed the audience by saying, “Thanks for having us, thanks for being out here and supporting our amazing tour and it’s such an honor to win my first professional event at Mission Inn and hopefully there’s more to come.
Thank you so much everybody for sticking around for the award ceremony and as Michael Bowery (Head Golf Professional) mentioned, we look forward to seeing everybody back next year for the 2024 Inova Mission Inn Championship, so thank you and be safe going home.” Jiwon has been on the Epson Tour since 2022, this was her 1st win. Her current career earnings are $85,000.00 which includes today’s Championship.
Congratulations to Champion Jiwon Jeon the new “El Conquistador of El Campeon.”
(PHOTO CREDIT: Bill Sangster)