Clariss Guce (Artesia, Calif) overcame a triple-bogey on the 12th hole to win her first career professional tournament on Sunday at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic at Brook-Lea Country Club. Guce dropped a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish at 4-under for the round and 11-under, 277 for the tournament, one stroke clear of Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) and Ally McDonald (Fulton, Ms.).

Guce moves from 84th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list to 12th with her first place check of $30,000. Guce had missed the cut in six of nine starts coming into the week.

“It is an amazing feeling, especially because I have been struggling quite a bit during the season,” said Guce, who missed five straight cuts between the end of May and June. “Being able to make a cut a couple weeks ago and then to win here, I can’t even describe how fast this is happening. It just shows that anyone out here can win, the fields are just so good.”

After birdies on 14 and 15 to recover from a triple bogey on 12, Guce arrived at the 18th green in a share of the lead with McDonald, who was in the clubhouse at 10-under after a 64.

“As soon as I hit it, I just thought wow, that looks really, really good but don’t celebrate too early because you might get burned,” said Guce. “As soon as it went in, I just looked at Jean (Chua) and was like ‘oh my god, that just went in’ and I gave her a big hug.”

Guce, 26, had a two shot lead heading into the back nine, but made a mistake on 12 that dropped her from the lead.

“We just kind of laughed about it (triple bogey) because it is just golf and things happen,” said Guce, who had a wide smile on her face all week. “I knew that I was putting the ball well enough that I could get a few back. I just tried to stay calm and have fun.”

Guce, who graduated from California State, Northridge in 2014, decided to play mini tours in 2014 and then went to LPGA Qualifying Tournament in 2015 to earn Symetra Tour status. She started strong in her rookie season on Tour with two top 20 finishes in her first three events, but then hit a spell of missed cuts. Guce said the key was never getting down on herself.

“I wasn’t playing bad golf, I was just making poor decisions,” said Guce. “The thing I fall back on now is that I have a great group of friends out here and we really keep things light. Keeping things light made it fun to keep coming to work and the next thing I know I make a cut a couple weeks ago and now this. Being able to have fun out here is a big part of this.”

After earning just $4,859 through her first nine starts, Guce isn’t ready to let the big payday or her first win change her mindset.

“The priority right now is making sure I play good golf each individual round and things will fall into place,” said Guce. “I just want to have fun out here because not a lot of people get to do what we do and I just feel blessed.”

The win shouldn’t be a complete surprise as Guce was the 2014 Big West Golf Player of the Year.

Guce, who normally carries her own bag, had fellow Tour pro Jean Chua on the bag on Sunday. They met on the range just an hour before the round and Guce decided to have Chua caddy. They made a great team and were seen smiling all round. Guce credited Chua for helping read the greens.

MCDONALD CARDS 64 TO VAULT TO T2: Ally McDonald posted a bogey-free 8-under, 64 to finish in a tie for second. She nearly got into a playoff, but Guce birdied the 18th hole. McDonald birdied the first two holes of the day, but really caught fire on the back nine. She made five birdies including a 33-footer on 18 to punctuate the tournament record round.

“It has been a while since I’ve had a round like that,” said McDonald, who moves up to third on the money list with the second place result. “I’ve been waiting for this round and it was great to see putts go in.”

McDonald said that having no expectations and not playing in the final groups helped.

“Coming into every tournament you want to win, but when you’re five shots back you kind of don’t have expectations other than to shoot a low number,” said McDonald. “I had that mindset today and it worked.”

When McDonald drained the long putt on 18, she let out a ton of emotion with an emphatic and long fist pump.

“I knew if I made it that it would be a big putt,” said McDonald, who watched a sequence of the fist pump captured by the photographer from the D&C. “Chances from 33-feet are pretty low, even on the PGA TOUR, so you can’t hold back whenever you do something like that.”

 

PAOLA MORENO CARDS 7-UNDER 65: Paola Moreno tee’d off three hours before the leaders and carded a 7-under, 65 to move from T32 to T12. Moreno made seven birdies against no bogeys. She put an exclamation point on her round with birdies on 15, 16, and 17.

Moreno, who won the last tournament at the Tullymore Classic, is now 17th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.

“I think putting has been a key factor during the last two weeks,” said Moreno. “Overall, I have been hitting the ball consistent and especially today, I gave myself a lot of close chances and made most of them. Same thing last week, just making important putts during the last nine holes.”

 

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