Mel Reid finishes strong to capture ShopRite LPGA Championship for first tour win

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Mel Reid felt her first LPGA Tour victory was a long time coming, and her celebration showed it.

She tapped in a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, immediately dropped her putter and ran into the arms of her caddie, Ryan Desveaux. Moments later, she was showered with a mixture of champagne and beer, and the 33-year-old from England grabbed a bottle of bubbly and took a swig.

In her first start since losing the final-round lead in Portland, Oregon, Reid seized control with four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn and closed with a 4-under 67 for a 2-shot victory over Jennifer Kupcho and Jennifer Song.

“I love champagne. So it was nice to do it. I’ve not had that feeling for a long time, so just relief, honestly,” said Reid, who has six Ladies European Tour titles. “I wanted to put things right from Portland. Yeah, just felt like I handled things a lot better today than I did the final round in Portland, so just absolutely made up to be holding the trophy.”

Reid’s only mistake on the back nine was a bogey on the par-3 17th, which cut her 4-shot lead in half when Kupcho and Song each made birdie.

From the right rough on the par-5 closing hole, Reid lashed a 6-iron knowing that short of the green would be fine with a 2-shot lead and the other two players also in the rough. The ball came out hot and ran onto the edge of the green, effectively assuring victory.

A promising British amateur who played in the 2006 Curtis Cup and was low amateur at the 2007 Women’s British Open, her personal life derailed in 2012 when her mother was killed in a car crash near Munich while driving to watch her play a Ladies European Tour event.

Reid eventually got back on track, and now she believes she can achieve a lot more.

“It just goes to show, doesn’t it? No matter what life throws at you, it depends how you handle it,” Reid said. “I made a huge sacrifice moving to America, leaving my comfort zone, my friends and my family, and it’s paid off. … No matter what, people can’t take away the fact that I’m an LPGA winner against a world-class field. It just goes to show you just got to keep going.

“Things will get tough. I will have tough years as well ahead of me,” she said. “As long as you just keep your head down and doing the right things, good things will happen to good people. Just great to finally get it done.”

Kupcho, the former NCAA champion at Wake Forest who last year won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, lost ground with a double bogey on the par-3 eighth hole and had a shot roll back to her feet on the 16th for a crucial bogey. She closed with two birdies for a 68 to finish alone in second.

Song kept pace with Reid until a 2-shot swing on the par-3 11th — Reid made her fourth birdie in the last five holes, while Song made bogey — sent her 3 shots behind. She closed with a 69 and finished third.

Reid had a few good par saves, particularly on the 15th, and she looked steady over her 4-foot putts to keep her distance. She finished at 19-under 265, only the second time the ShopRite LPGA Classic was contested over 72 holes.

Nasa Hataoka had a 69 to finish fourth, and Nelly Korda closed with a 66 to finish fifth. Lexi Thompson, the defending champion who has gone nearly 16 months without a victory, shot 68 and tied for 13th.

The first call Reid made was to her father in England, and she knew where to find him — a pub called the Black Swan.

“He was a bit more sober than I expected,” she said with a laugh.

Reid will have to tone down her own celebration. Next week is another major championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Aronimink outside Philadelphia.

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