Gaby Lopez birdied the last three holes to finish the Dana Open in a fiery flourish. The 28-year-old Mexican got up and down from a greenside bunker with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to close with a 63 and earn her third career LPGA title.
Actually, she had rehearsed for this very moment the night before while emptying the dishwasher at the home of her host family. There was a vase on the rack that looked similar to this week’s trophy, and after someone suggested that she practice, Lopez hoisted it high.
“That’s when the mind gets really, really interesting,” said Lopez. “When you see yourself a little bit where you want to be and you see yourself ahead, it doesn’t come as a surprise as much probably.
“So, yeah, the power of mind is pretty much everything in this game.”
Gaby Lopez kisses the trophy after winning the 2022 Dana Open at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. (Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Lopez, who last won on the LPGA in 2020, was bogey-free on a damp Sunday at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, to finish at 18 under for the tournament and hold off a host of hungry players including 19-year-old Lucy Li, Megan Khang and defending champion Nasa Hataoka. Lopez birdied the last three holes on Saturday, too, to shoot 66 and head into the final round four strokes back.
Lopez has battled two injuries this season and hadn’t cracked the top 10 since the first tournament of the year when she finished solo third at the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.
“Honestly, I was very surprised how the year has been,” she said, “because I have hit it the best I’ve ever hit it in my life through this year, but I just couldn’t connect it.
“I was struggling sometimes on my driver and sometimes on my putting and sometimes on my iron shots, but I felt that I was hitting it really, really close the last couple months, and I was very, very frustrated that I couldn’t connect it.”
Lopez has worked with Steven Yellin and the Fluid Motion Factor for eight years, and said Yellin came to Sylvania for three days this week. Together they worked to reset the mind. The goal, she said, was to create more quiet space during the round and “get rid of all the drama.”
Yellin often talks to Lopez about “staying on the couch,” and she explained the meaning of the mantra after the win.
“Well, he has to tell you better than I can tell you,” she said, “but basically if you stay on the couch and you don’t get ahead of yourself, then everything comes to you and you don’t have to chase anything.
“So it’s pretty much letting everything come, staying comfortable, sitting instead of going and rushing everything.”
Lopez and World Golf Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa are the only Mexicans to win on the LPGA. The former Arkansas standout has now crossed the $3 million mark in career earnings. She earned $262,500 for her Dana Open victory.
Li found herself leading an LPGA event for the first time this week and closed with a 70 while playing in the final group. The former prodigy had already shored up LPGA status for the 2023 season thanks to two victories on the Epson Tour and played her way into the Dana by finishing in the top 10 at last week’s CP Women’s Open in Canada. The LPGA recently changed the rules to allow non-members to earn a spot in the next week’s event.
Li’s T-4 finish in Sylvania also earned her a spot in next week’s field at the new Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati.
Gaby Lopez and Megan Khang embrace on the 18th green after their final round at the 2022 Dana Open at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. (Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Khang, who has yet to win on the LPGA in seven seasons, posted her best finish of the season, a solo second, thanks to a final-round 64 that included a 29 on the front nine.
“A lot of mixed feelings,” said Khang, “but I gave myself chances, and just going to take what I learned from this week and carry on for my career.”
Sarah Schmelzel finished in the top 10 for a second straight week, shooting 65-66 over the weekend to finish at 15 under alongside rookie Ruoning Yin and Li.
Lexi Thompson entered the final round one stroke back but closed with a 2-over 73 in which she made bogeys on Nos. 15-17 before closing with her first birdie of the day on the par-5 18th. The American star has yet to win on the LPGA since 2019. No other player in the top 40 shot over par on Sunday.