Teenager Bel Wardle came from six shots behind to birdie her way to a one-stroke victory in the English women’s open stroke play championship at Woodhall Spa.
She fired a closing six-under 67 on the Hotchkin course, finishing three-under par for the 72 hole event and a shot ahead of Dulcie Sverdloff of Essex.
Both players charged home and both birdied the last two holes, but it was Wardle who had the edge and adds her name a trophy previously held by Solheim Cup players Charley Hull, Jodi Ewart and Joanne Morley.
“I wanted to win this so much, I can’t believe it,” said the 17-year-old from Prestbury in Cheshire.
It’s her second win in three weeks, after she produced a top class performance to claim the English girls’ title in gale force winds – and proved to herself that she could cross the winning line.
That confidence stood her in good stead this week. At the halfway stage she was two off the lead, but after the third round she’d slipped further back after returning five-over 78.
Wardle had struggled with her putting while Yorkshire’s Rochelle Morris (Woodsome Hall) fashioned a bogey-free 67 and Sverdloff (Thorpe Hall) returned 69 to share the lead on three-under with a round to play.
Wardle wasn’t phased. She sorted out her putting at lunchtime and went out again this afternoon thinking: “Anything can happen on this golf course and there’s a lot of pressure on the leaders.
“I knew I had to shoot under par and I just stuck to hitting fairways and greens and tried to make sure I was on the right side of the holes and always had uphill putts.”
She was two-under on front nine and then started her charge by holing a 25ft birdie putt on the 13th. She reached the long 14th in two shots to set up a two-putt birdie. A monster drive on 17 was rewarded with a classy pitch and putt for another birdie to draw level with Sverdloff, who has just finished on two-under.
Wardle knew she had to birdie the last to win and set about achieving it – despite having a tree on her line on her second shot. Her seven iron shot soared over the obstacle and finished within chipping distance of the green, from where she calmly got up and down to post an unbeatable score. “I was really going for that birdie,” she said afterwards.
Third place went to Austria’s Isabella Holpfer, who had shared the halfway lead on four-under and who was only one shot off the pace at the start of the final round.
She took the lead during the last round but slipped out of the reckoning with a bogey on the long 14th and went on to finish on level par.
Meanwhile Sophie Lamb (Clitheroe, Lancashire) returned her best score of the week with a bogey-free 69 to share fourth place with fellow international Rochelle Morris on one-over.
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