Cheyenne Knight’s LPGA breakthrough Sunday felt as if it were a major championship.
That’s how much it meant to her to win in Texas.
The 22-year-old rookie claimed her first title in front of family and friends at the Volunteers of America Classic near her home just outside Dallas, at the tour’s only event in her home state.
Knight won playing just 60 miles from where she made a name for herself winning two state high school championships in Aledo.
She won after sleeping in her own bed on Saturday night.
She won feeling as if an angel were sitting on her shoulder, dedicating the victory to her older brother, Brandon, who was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident when she was just 12.
“Growing up, I wanted to do everything Brandon did,” Knight told GolfChannel.com in a phone interview afterward. “He was a great athlete, and I’m super competitive, I think, because of him. He really helped me become the athlete I am today. He was a great man, and I felt like he was watching today.”
Knight won near the end of a rough first year on tour, knowing she had to play really well this week or lose her tour card. She arrived 120th on the LPGA money list needing to finish among the top 100 money winners to keep her card.
“When I got my card, I said this is the event I was most looking forward to,” Knight told Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz through tears on the 18th green. “Who would have thought this would help me secure my card? This means everything, knowing I can persevere, and I’m strong enough to do anything.”
Knight won on an All-American Sunday, closing with a 6-under-par 66 to come from a shot behind at day’s start to finish two ahead of fellow countrywomen Jaye Marie Green (69) and Brittany Altomare (67). She’s the third American to win in 26 LPGA stroke-play tournaments this year.
Knight shot 33-33 closing out. That’s significant. Her brother, Brandon, wore No. 33 as a football player in high school.
The victory came with a $195,000 first-place check, making her the first player from the University of Alabama to win an LPGA title. She joins Jeongeun Lee6 as the only rookies to win so far this season.
“I’ve prayed about this,” Knight said. “It’s been a really hard year. I always knew that even though I didn’t understand the timing, God was in control.”
Knight’s Christian faith is important to her. She said Hillsong Worship’s “Seasons” is one of her favorite songs, and she listened to it on her playlist while making the hour-long drive from Aledo to Old American Golf Club on Sunday morning with her mother, grandmother and boyfriend. The song’s about winter’s grip and how “nature acquaints us with the nature of patience” and how the “barren” becomes “beautiful” at harvest time.
Knight didn’t look like a rookie harvesting her first title. She turned mistakes into triumphs with a brilliant short game. After missing the ninth green, she chipped in for birdie. After missing the 10th green, she holed out yet again for birdie. She also made a brilliant up and down for birdie at the 17th that probably secure the victory.
With her father, Gene, and mom, Jayna, watching greenside, Knight two-putted for par to secure her title. She said a group of about 25 family and friends, including her 80-year-old grandmother, Pat, and an aunt, were a source of unwavering support. So was her caddie, Brian Mahoney.
“My first LPGA win in my home state, it means more to me than anything,” Knight said.