MIDLAND, Mich. – Cydney Clanton’s first LPGA victory couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Concord High School graduate missed retaining her full card by a mere $8 last year on the LPGA Money List, so she’s only been able to play in four events this season.
But Clanton made the best of her latest LPGA opportunity, teaming up with Jasmine Suwannapura to win the inaugural Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on Saturday, which was the first team event in the Tour’s history.
The Clanton-Suwannapura tandem actually coasted to the victory at Midland Country Club, firing an 11-under-par 59 Saturday to win by six shots in the better-ball format, picking up individual checks of $241,269.
Clanton and Suwannapura took a five-shot lead into the final round after shooting an alternate-shot 63 on Friday. They finished at 27-under 253.
It was the first LPGA victory for Clanton and the second for Suwannapura.
Jin Young Ko and Minjee Lee took second place. The teams of Ariya Jutanugarn and Moriya Jutanugarn, and Na Yeon Choi and Jenny Shin finished in a tie for third.
After the big win, Clanton and Suwannnapura jumped into a swimming pool with their caddies, Michelle Simpson and Randy Wilkins, to celebrate.
Clanton’s first LPGA title comes in her eighth year on the Tour. The 30-year-old’s best finish in an LPGA event before Saturday was a tie for seventh place, although she had been playing good golf this year, having won a Symetra Tour tournament, the Murphy USA El Dorado, in April.
Because of her limited LPGA status, Clanton has mostly played on the Symetra Tour this season, but Saturday’s win allows her to return to the LPGA and gives her exemptions in the next two LPGA events, a pair of majors: The Evian Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open.
“This is 100 percent God’s plan,” Clanton told reporters. “I couldn’t even dream up to have won a Symetra event earlier this year and then to come out and win with Jasmine. It's so funny. This is the tournament that I wanted to come and play in. I was like, team event, I'm in, let's go.
“So I'm blessed for the opportunity. I'm blessed that Jasmine let me come play with her. She played great golf all week, and we just kind of meshed after (Friday). We just felt really good after (Friday).”
Clanton entered the tournament at No. 269 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She has now earned $254,978 for the year, giving her $820,188 for her career.
She is just the third American winner this season, joining Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson. The 2011 Auburn University graduate also becomes the first Tiger to win on the LPGA Tour.
“This allows me to relax a little bit, set my own schedule,” Clanton told mlive.com. “It frees me up.
“I was quite down for the first couple of years. I was a pretty good college player and thought I was going to come out hotter than I did … and I didn’t. It hurt. It’s amazing how golf can be so negative if you allow it. The biggest thing the last couple of years is trying not to look at everything as a negative. What can I improve on each week? What can I take from each week?”
Clanton graduated from Concord in 2007 after a stellar high school career that included an individual state championship, two regional titles and recognition as an AJGA Second-Team Rolex Junior All-American.