By Rick Woelfel

Annie Park has spent much of her brief LPGA career laboring in anonymity. But that has changed. Park powered her way through a deep pack of contenders to win the 30th ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday, June 10.

On a day when the conditions at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club's Bay Course in Galloway Township provided opportunities for good scoring, the 23-year-old Long Island native carded an 8-under par 63, matching the low round of her career, to finish the 54 holes at 16-under par 197. That was one shot off the tournament scoring record set by Anna Nordqvist two years ago. Sakura Yokomine closed with a 61 to finish alone in second place at 198.

Wayne, N.J. native Marina Alex finished alone in third place at 14-under par 199 in one of her best finishes ever. Since the start of 2017, Alex has recorded nine top-10 finishes.

Alex played solidly all week, turning in rounds of 67-68-64. At one point during her incoming nine on the final day, she was within one shot of the lead. Her final round featured an ace at the Bay Course's 119-yard 17th hole. Alex cited improved putting as a factor in her performance. She spent time early in the week working with her putting coach, longtime PGA professional Charlie Cowell, who is also her godfather. He is the Director of Instruction at Crestmont Country Club in West Orange.

"I hit the ball pretty well (at the U.S. Women's Open)," Alex said, “but I just made a lot of mistakes on the greens. So I spent Tuesday with my putting coach. We just worked on a couple things in my setup. I was just trying to focus on that while I'm on the greens and making the best reads I can."

The top-three finish was Alex's second of the season. She is still seeking her first LPGA win. Her best finish came in March when she tied for second at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix.

"I handled my nerves well," she said, "and I just went out there. I knew I had to shoot a really low score (Sunday) to have a chance."

Alex said she had a target score in mind of 15 under par. "I set a goal and almost got there," she said. "I'm just really happy with how I played today."

Park won the 2013 NCAA Division 1 individual championship while a freshman at USC and earned her LPGA Tour card for 2016 by leading the Symetra Tour money list the year before. But after recording two top-10 finishes as an LPGA Tour rookie, she struggled until she got into the field at the LPGA Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., this past April via Monday qualifying.

She tied for 18th there and gained enough status on the priority list to get into other events. The ShopRite event was her fifth LPGA start of the season and the 47th of her career.

Park is comfortable on Seaview's Bay Course. She tied for sixth at the ShopRite two years ago when she shot her first 63 during the final round.

"Honestly, I think it's just about growing up and playing a lot of links golf courses," she said. "I think that really helped out a lot. I’m definitely a lot more comfortable out here just because I'm so familiar with the grass, the course layout, just everything; even the weather. That makes a huge difference."

This year, the event raised more than $1.4 million for charity. The funds were distributed among more than 40 charitable organizations, including local food banks as well as organizations assisting families with children battling cancer.

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