Impressive Pano secures breakthrough win on LGPA Tour

Nineteen-year-old celebrates her birthday by claiming the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle while Daniel Brown claims men’s event

A new star shone brightly, as tour rookie Alexa Pano – on her 19th birthday – showed maturity and fortitude beyond her years to secure a breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour when securing the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle Golf Club.

Pano, a onetime child reality television star when she featured in the 2013 Netflix documentary film The Short Game, again demonstrated the X-factor when beating off Gabriella Cowley and Esther Henseleit in a playoff.

In producing a superb final round 66 for an eight-under-par total of 281 to join the German and the Englishwoman in the playoff. Henseleit exited at the first hole of sudden death before Pano produced a birdie on the third playoff hole – narrowly missing her eagle attempt after reaching the par-five 18th in two – to seal the deal.

“This is so surreal. I mean, I still haven’t processed it. I couldn’t process it on the 18th green and it is still sinking in . . . I mean, I’ve been dreaming of this for so long, even just putts on the practice green saying, ‘this is to win an LPGA event’. To finally have that putt and have that opportunity, it just exceeded my expectations and it was so much fun,” said Pano, who earned a pay-day of just over €205,000 for her win.


Leona Maguire finished in tied-16th after a final round 70 for 289, while Stephanie Meadow finished in tied-27th after a final round 72 for 291.

With the automatic qualifying process concluded, Maguire is assured of her place on Europe’s Solheim Cup team for the match in Spain next month – along with Celine Boutier, Maja Stark, Charley Hull, Linn Grant, Carlota Ciganda and assistant captain Anna Nordqvist – and captain Suzann Pettersen will reveal her four wild card picks at an announcement on Tuesday.

“I’m really excited to be part of the European Team at this year’s Solheim Cup,” said Maguire, who was the star of the team in 2021 when she had an unbeaten record and earned 4½ points from a possible five.

“I had an incredible time in Toledo, it was way beyond my expectations, but I can’t wait to be part of Team Europe on European soil and to play in front of home fans. It’s great to be flying the flag for Ireland once again and I hope to have lots of support in Spain.”

Maguire has a week off before playing in next week’s KPMG Irish Women’s Open at Dromoland Castle but Meadow unfortunately will miss that tournament as she is in need of LPGA Tour order of merit points if she is to make the season-ending Tour Championship confined to the leading 60 players.

Given her position right on the bubble (in 60th), Meadow will return to play in Oregon, Ohio, Arkansas and Texas as well as hopefully on the late-season Asian swing in her bid to make it to the Tour Championship.

There was also a breakthrough career win for England’s Daniel Brown to win the men’s tournament at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, his first victory on the DP World Tour in his 20th start.

Brown shot a final round 69 for a total of 15-under-par 266 for a five strokes winning margin over Alex Fitzpatrick with another English golfer Eddie Pepperell in solo third.

Meanwhile, The Castle’s Robert Moran claimed the AIG Irish Men’s Close Championship when he defeated defending champion Quentin Carew of Castleknock at the third playoff hole at Malone Golf Club in Belfast, the Dubliner sinking a 12-footer for birdie to claim victory.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times