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Blackwelder pulls away to win Symetra Classic

Mallory Blackwelder turned this weekend’s Symetra Tour event into a family reunion.

It became a family celebration on Saturday, as Blackwelder pulled ahead during the Symetra Classic’s final round to win her first-ever event on the LPGA’s developmental tour.

Blackwelder won $15,000 after shooting a 5-under 67 at the Raintree Country Club. That put her at 10-under 206 for the three-day tournament, two strokes ahead of runner-up Emily Talley.

“It’s been a really comfortable week,” said Blackwelder, who stayed with her grandmother, Alice Blackwelder, during tournament week. “I’ve been playing so solid all week, and felt really confident.

“The first two days, I kinda gave a couple (strokes) back on the back nine. So my goal today was … keep the pedal down and keep making birdies on the back nine instead of slowing down.”

Yet Blackwelder, who has been on the Symetra Tour since 2010, was the chaser heading into Saturday’s final round. She began the day two shots behind leader Olivia Jordan-Higgins of Great Britain.

To make things worse, Blackwelder opened with a bogey on the first hole. Yet she said that turned out to be a blessing.

“Obviously, starting with a bogey is never a good thing, but it kinda calmed me down a little bit,” said Blackwelder, whose father Worth went to high school at East Mecklenburg.

“I told my mom (Myra) on the drive over that it’s kinda nice to be behind. I’ve won tournaments before, but never at this high of a level, so it was kinda nice not having to sleep on the lead and not be expected to win.”

The turnaround came toward the end of the front nine at Raintree – Blackwelder went on a tear, making consecutive birdies on Nos. 7-9, while Jordan-Higgins had a double-bogey on No. 8 to drop her two shots behind.

While she made up one stroke with a birdie on No. 9, Jordan-Higgins had another double bogey on No. 11 to take herself out of contention. Blackwelder went on to add two more birdies (on No. 13 and No. 14) and stretch her lead on to three shots entering the final hole.

“Two bad swings – that was it,” said Jordan-Higgins, who finished at 5-under 211. “There were a lot of birdie chances on the back nine, but my putter was just not working today. I left everything short.”

Talley shot a 4-under 68 in the final round to finish at 8-under 208 for her career-best finish on the Symetra Tour. South Korea’s Min Seo Kwak, who shot 3-under 69 on the final day, was third at 7-under 209.

Cheyenne Woods, the niece of PGA superstar Tiger Woods, had her best round of the Symetra Classic on Saturday. She shot a 2-under 70, and finished at 1-over 217.

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