Matching for par, bogey, par, the pair couldn’t be separated after three rounds of the 18th hole, but the breakthrough came on the fourth time asking when Chun drove his tee shot into a bunker.
It makes Buhai the first South African to win the event since Alison Sheard in 1979 and ends a 34-year wait for the country’s next women’s major champion following Sally Little’s victory at the du Maurier Classic in 1988.
First home to female golfers, Muirfield already had special significance for the South African men’s game as the scene of the legendary duo Gary Player and Ernie Els’ first Open victories in 1959 and 2002, respectively.
“It’s a huge honor to have more South African hits here,” Buhai told reporters.
“To follow these two great [Els and Player]two of my idols growing up, and for us to play here for the first time at Muirfield, making history, I’m very, very honored and very, very proud to be South African at this time.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I’m trying to catch my breath, but obviously it’s fantastic to win this championship… it’s a dream come true,” she added.
“It’s been a long journey”
The South African has won the Ladies European Tour three times – including an early win at the Catalonia Ladies Masters – but after a fifth-place finish at the 2019 Woburn Open marked her career-best showing at a major tournament, Muirfield represents a new unprecedented peak.
“It was a long journey,” Buhai said.
“I turned pro when I was 18, a lot was expected of me. I won the Ladies European Tour straight away, but this game has a way of giving you a hard time.
“I’m so proud of how I’ve held on. I said, over the last four or five years, I finally started to find my feet in the LPGA and I felt like I could compete, and although I’m 33 now, I feel like I’m playing the best golf of my career.
“It’s been a long journey, but man, it’s worth it now.”
Buhai’s first major win was a fitting encapsulation of that trip. After taking a decisive lead shooting 70, 65, 64 in the first three rounds of the par 71 course, the South African seemed to slide into an agonizing collapse at the end.
After birding eight times on Saturday, Buhai only birdied one throughout the final round, as her four over 75s opened the door for Chun to bring it back with an under 70.
“I’m always happy to finish in a good position,” Chun told reporters. “I felt like I had a great season and I have more tournaments to come.
“I think now I have a lot of confidence that I can play well on the link courses.”
Despite an eagle on the fifth hole, Japan’s Hinako Shibuno missed the playoffs by one stroke after shooting par-71.