England’s Bel Wardle came from five shots off the lead to win the Portuguese women’s amateur championship in a play-off.
The 18-year-old international caught and then beat fellow England player Annabell Fuller on the first play-off hole – the 18th – on the difficult West Cliffs course.
“It’s amazing to win,” said Wardle, who was playing in her first competitive event of the year and adds this title to the English women’s and English girls’ open championships of 2017.
Fuller, 15, took a three shot lead into the final round and Wardle was five behind her – but knew anything could happen. “This golf course throws everything at you, it is so tough. If you spray the ball left or right you are struggling to make a bogey.
“I had no idea what anyone else was scoring but I just tried to keep myself as low as possible,” said Wardle, from Prestbury Golf Club in Cheshire. “Holes 16, 17 and 18 are really tough and I knew if I could hang in with some sort of score it would make those holes even tougher with the pressure.”
In the final round, in which strong winds added to the challenge of the course, Wardle posted five-over 77 and declared herself: “100% happy. I was five-over through nine and heading in to the tougher nine, so I was so pleased to come back in level par.”
It put her in the play-off after Fuller (Roehampton, Surrey) tangled with a bush and double bogeyed the 18th in regulation play. “I was very, very nervous, I had never been in a play-off,” said Wardle. “But I had my friend Jess Hall on the bag, she was calming me down and we went through the strategy I had in place and just played the hole.”
This was Wardle’s first competitive event since the World girls’ championship last September – and she was ready for it. “I have done a lot of work over the winter with my coach, Richard Green of Bramhall Golf Club. My swing was feeling great coming into the week and I just wanted to get back competing again. I have done all the practice, I just wanted to get out there.”
The championship was a great showcase for England talent – with English players capturing not only the first two places, but also the Nations Cup. Annabell Fuller, Sophie Lamb (Clitheroe) and Lily May Humphreys (Stoke by Nayland) combined to win the team prize. Lamb had her first hole in one during the championship and was eighth overall.
Caption: Bel Wardle with the Portuguese women’s amateur trophy © Filipe Guerra/GolfTattoo/FPG