Earl claims first international title at English Women’s Open Stroke Play

Hertfordshire’s Rebecca Earl survived a late scare to claim the first international title of her career at the English Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Ipswich Golf Club.

The 19-year-old from Bishops Stortford bogeyed the last for a one over par 73 and then faced an anxious wait to see if Whitley Bay’s Rosie Belsham could catch her but in the end her two-under par total of 286 proved to be enough to give her a one-shot victory over Belsham, Stoke by Nayland’s Lily May Humphreys, Scotland’s Shannon McWilliam and Sharna Dutrieux from Wrotham Heath.

Humphreys made a late charge in a bid to add to the Welsh and Irish Women’s Stroke Play titles she won earlier in the season but in the end a birdie at the last for a 68 was not quite enough.

Scottish international McWilliam also moved up the field with four birdies in the opening 15 holes of her final round but a bogey at the last meant she had to settle for a 69 which left her one shot short.

Dutrieux made her move in the morning with a 69 and she looked as if she would maintain her run when she fired five birdies in seven holes from the fifth but four dropped shots over the closing stretch saw her also come up one shot short in the group in second place.

Belsham knew she needed to birdie the last to take Earl into a play-off but it was not to be and her 74 also saw her finish in the group on one under par 287.

“I’m shocked really,” said Earl, who is about to go back for her second year at Wofford College in South Carolina. “I hit a few loose drives out there this afternoon and found a bit of trouble, but my putting kept me in it.

“The short 15th was a good example of that. I missed the green from the tee but then holed out from about 30-feet for a two. On the long 17th I hit my drive into the deep round on the right and then my second into the rough on the left but I got it out to about 25-feet and holed that for another birdie. I guess it was my day.

“On the last I found a greenside bunker,” she added. “I got it out to about six-feet but couldn’t get it to drop. That meant I had to wait to see what Rosie did behind me before I knew I had won.”

On a day when several of the more experienced competitors made a move up the leaderboard, Prestbury’s Bel Wardle was seven under par for her first 16 holes but bogeys at the 17th and 18th saw post a 67 and drop her into a share of sixth place alongside Darcey Harry from Wales two shots behind the winner. Harry had led the field by one shot after a third round 68 but a closing 76 dropped her out of contention.

Austrian defending champion Isabella Holpfer closed with a one under par 71 to finish eighth on 289.

Earl becomes the second Hertfordshire played to lift one of England Golf’s major women trophies this season, following in the footsteps of Ellen Hume, from Mill Green, who beat Humphreys in the final to win the English Women’s Amateur Championship at Saunton back in May.

Picture credit: Leaderboard Photography