It took six extra holes for former Solheim Cup stalwarts Juli Inkster and Trish Johnson to determine a winner at The Legends Championship presented by Old National Bank on The Legends Tour on Sunday.
But after a half-dozen more visits to the par-five 18th hole of the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, England’s Johnson outlasted defending champion Inkster.
The pair matched identical rounds of 68-71 for a 36-hole total of 5-under 139, but when it was all over, Johnson, runner-up to Inkster at last year’s Legends Championship, had avenged her 2015 loss and earned her first Legends Tour victory. It was also the longest playoff in the 16-year history of The Legends Tour.
“I wish I could say I enjoyed that, but I really didn’t,’’ quipped Johnson, a Lifetime Member of the Ladies European Tour, who has posted six top-10 finishes in seven Legends Tour events. “It was a battle for survival at the end.”
Johnson, Inkster and Becky Iverson entered the final round tied for the lead. The Briton charged ahead by three shots with early birdies and appeared poised to run away from the field.
But every time Johnson moved ahead, Inkster answered, and just as she had done in 2015, Inkster birdied three of her last six holes – including a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to tie Johnson and force a playoff.
“I got a little defensive,” admitted Johnson, who has three LPGA wins, 19 Ladies European Tour victories, and eight European Solheim Cup Team appearances. “I knew what Juli was going to do because she always does that.’’
The designated playoff hole sent the two players back to the 480-yard, par-five 18th hole – not a favorite layout for Johnson — who admitted she had played the hole 20 times in competition without a birdie.
Both Johnson and Inkster had birdie chances during the playoff, with Johnson’s 12-footer spinning out of the cup on the second extra hole, and Inkster’s 10-footer burning the edge on the fourth playoff hole.
On their sixth trip down No. 18 – the 42nd hole — Inkster’s second shot sailed into the right heather and she was forced to declare an unplayable lie. The Californian could only advance her ball by four yards on her first attempt from the thatch, but she hit the green on her fifth shot.
And as she had done so many times before, Johnson took par to end the playoff by two-putting from 20 feet for the win and $37,000 cash prize.
England’s Laura Davies finished three shots back in third place at 2-under 142, while Iverson tied for fourth at one-under 143 with Marilyn Lovander.
Jean Bartholomew carded the tournament’s low round of 7-under 65, and tied for sixth alongside Michele Redman at even-par 144.
Australia’s Jan Stephenson earned her fourth consecutive win in the seven-player Honors Division for players age 63 and over. Stephenson won her division by four strokes at 3-over 147 over runner-up Shelley Hamlin of Arizona (151), collecting the winner’s prize of $5,000.