Haruka Morita-Wanyaolu wins Symetra Classic

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Haruka Morita-WanyaoLu with the trophy (M. Walters Photography/ Symetra Tour)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Haruka Morita-WanyaoLu won the Symetra Classic on Saturday for her Symetra Tour title, beating Canada’s Augusta James with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff.

Morita-WanyaoLu hit an 8-iron to 5 feet to set up her winning birdie on the par- 3 18th.

“I thought finally, finally,” Morita-WanyaoLu said. “Finally, I was able to win.”

Morita-WanyaoLu closed with a 5-under 67 to match James at 12-under 204 at Raintree Country Club.

“I never thought about winning,” Morita-WanyaoLu said. “I just wanted to take it hole-by-hole and that’s what helped me to post a good score.”

The 18-year-old Morita-WanyaoLu is Chinese-Japanese – Haruka Morita is her Japanese name and Wanyao Lu her Chinese name. She plays under the Chinese flag because she can’t become a naturalized Japanese citizen until age 21 even though she was born in Japan and her first language is Japanese.

“There’s a lot of people who are going to be very happy back home,” said Morita-WanyaoLu, the 2013 Japan Women’s Amateur champion.

James, the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial winner last month in Florida, birdied the final hole of regulation for a 67.

“I definitely grinded really hard,” said James, the former North Carolina State player from Bath, Ontario. “It was a huge battle between a bunch of us out there. I can take away the fact that it’s out there for me, another win, and I’m working hard and grinding hard to get those.”

Morita-WanyaoLu earned $16,500 to jump from 24th to seventh on the money list with $27,353. James made $10,102 to move from sixth to second with $34,387. The final top 10 will earn 2016 LPGA Tour cards.

Rachel Rohanna was third at 11 under, also after a 67.