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Galea’i adds Mary Lou Baker Open to Career Win List

“Winning is fun, but I always just like playing with a fun group of girls,” said Lila Galea’i, who’s headed to a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in Oregon.

The beginning and the ending of her first Utah Golf Association tournament of the year were problematic for Lila Galea’i. Everything in between was more than satisfactory.

The story of the BYU golfer’s victory in the Mary Lou Baker Open starts with an out-of-bounds tee shot in the opening round at Hobble Creek Golf Course and concludes with her error in the scoring tent near the 18th green after Saturday’s final round.

The scorecard she signed didn’t reward Galea’i for her birdie on that hole, officially giving her a 68 instead of a 67. Before learning of the mistake, she liked the symmetry of a 4-over-par start and a 4-under finish.

Kerstin Ngakuru 

So the third individual UGA title of her career will go into the books as a one-shot win over Kerstin Ngakuru, her recently married BYU teammate. The former Kerstin Fotu, playing in the final group, bogeyed the par-4 No. 17 and posted 72-72. Otherwise, she could have forced a playoff with Galea’i, under somewhat awkward circumstances.

“I swear I checked everything, but … I think I need to do a better job with that. That happens too much,” Galea’i said.

The Rules of Golf include disqualification for a player who signs for a lower score on a hole; otherwise, the penalty is merely accepting the higher score. The bottom line is that Galea’i officially played 35 holes in 2 under par after starting with a triple bogey. That was good enough to win.

“I’m glad that I just kind of kept my cool and just played good,” said Galea’i, who similarly displayed her steady nature in tying for 29th place in the LPGA Epson Tour’s Copper Rock Championship in late April. She won the Women’s State Amateur and Women’s Stroke Play Championship trophies in 2021.

Galeai began the final round by avenging that “7” with a “3” on Hobble Creek’s first hole. She bogeyed the next two holes, but those were her only blemishes Saturday. Ultimately, a birdie on the par-3 No. 16 made the difference.

Starting the day six strokes off the lead, Galea’i said, “I had no expectations of winning, but I knew that if I just made a couple putts and limited my mistakes that I could have a chance.”

Kelsey Chugg, a five time winner of the Mary Lou Baker Open, owned a three shot lead heading into the final round.

Seeking a fifth Mary Lou Baker Open title, defending champion Kelsey Chugg took a three-shot lead into the final round after posting a 69 with five birdies. But the reigning UGA Women’s Player of the Year struggled Saturday, making two double bogeys on the front nine and shooting a 77 to finish third.

In the absence of 2021 winner Tess Blair, who was out of town, and junior golf star Ali Mulhall, a two-time UGA winner in 2023 who withdrew prior to the tournament, the MLB Open basically turned into a competition between Chugg and BYU’s 2023-24 women’s golf team. The Cougars’ Adeline Anderson (72-75), Sunbin Seo (73-75), Whitney Banz (75-73) and Berlin Long (76-74) placed in the top seven.

Kareen Larson

Kareen Larson (78-84), in her first season of 50-over eligibility, was the low senior by five strokes over 70-year-old Annette Gaiotti. Sue Nyhus (84-84) was one of two pros who competed. Gross titles were awarded to Utah Tech’s Jane Olson (77-76) in Championship Flight 2, Weber State’s Sarah Hameed (79-77) in Flight 3 and Ashley Smith (88-94) in the A Flight.

Galea’i was paired in the final round with Seo and Banz, the 2021 runner-up in the Mary Lou Baker Open, who’s transferring to BYU from Westminster College after returning from a church mission. Galea’i played the first round with Ngakuru, after they dueled in the 2021 Stroke Play.

“Winning is fun, but I always just like playing with a fun group of girls,” said Galea’i, who’s headed to a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in Oregon.

Lila Galea’i is headed to the U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier in Oregon.

UGA competition “is always interesting; it’s always a battle,” she added. “I can’t really explain how much it means to me, but it means more than just golf, because I have a bunch of relationships with all these girls.”

The Mary Lou Baker Open honors a six-time Women’s State Amateur champion and Utah Golf Hall of Fame member. Chugg hopes to tie Baker and others for No. 2 all-time with another title in the Women’s State Am, Aug. 1-4 at Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club. The Women’s Stroke Play is scheduled July 20-21 at Park City Golf Club.


Story by Fairways Media senior writer, Kurt Kragthorpe. Photos by Fairways Media/Randy Dodson.