Photograph courtesy of Tristan Jones/LET
Sweden’s Jenny Haglund made a birdie on the second play-off hole to defeat News South Welshwoman Sarah Kemp and defending champion Klara Spilkova to claim her first Ladies European Tour title at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Rabat, Morocco overnight.
Haglund shared a three-way tie for the 72-hole lead with overnight co-leader Kemp and Spilkova on three-under-par 285, after firing rounds of 75, 72, 68 and 70 over the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
The trio returned to the 18th tee and made pars at the first extra hole, but Haglund took the spoils after she blasted a 249-metre drive down the 18th fairway and converted a putt from just over a metre for birdie.
“It feels amazing! It’s been a great tournament and a great week and I’m very happy that it finished this way,” said the 24-year-old second year LET member from Karlstad, who had previously won the 2016 Norrporten Ladies Open on the LET Access Series, a few weeks after turning professional.
Haglund, who tied for 11th in the 2017 Lalla Meryem Cup as a rookie, began the final round four strokes behind the leaders and played the front nine in level par, but made three birdies coming home at holes 12, 14 and 15 to take the outright lead, before dropping back into a tie with a three-putt bogey on the difficult 16th, playing downwind.
“When I made those three birdies on the back nine, going into 16, I knew I had a chance, because I saw the leaderboard by the green. I kept going and played my game and it was enough to get me into the play-off,” she said.
“The last drive was a bomb! I was just in the moment, I wasn’t shaking, but I was shaking after the ball was in.
“It will definitely build a lot of confidence. I’ve been working on that part a lot so I’m very happy to be standing here and I’m very proud of myself.”
It was so near but so far for Kemp, whose short birdie putt to send the playoff into a third hole agonisingly missed.
The 32-year-old had made some key up and downs over the front nine to build a two-stroke lead heading into the back nine, and extended her lead to three shots after a chip-in birdie at the par 4 10th hole.
However, a wayward drive into a water hazard at the 11th hole resulted in a double-bogey six and saw Kemp's lead reduced to just a single shot, but she managed to compose herself over the final holes making seven straight pars to finish her round signing for a 2 over par round of 74.
The 13-season professional would have to settle for her third runner-up finish on the LET, following the 2006 Catalonia Ladies Masters and the 2010 New Zealand Open and a 26th top-10 finish on the LET in total.
Kemp said: “I’m obviously a little disappointed. I didn’t play as well as I had the past few days, but my goal this week was to put myself in contention and I did that, so it’s my equal best finish out on the Ladies European Tour and all in all it’s been a great week.
“I actually really enjoyed the play-off. I was nervous, but I had a really good time. I hope that I get that opportunity again and hopefully I can do something different. All in all, I achieved my goal for this week and the more I’m in this situation the better I’ll get at it.”
Spilkova, who tied for second, had holed a solid 12-foot putt for birdie on 17 to tie for the lead and had a golden opportunity to win in regulation play with a five-footer for birdie on the 18th green, but her apprehensive effort ended above the hole.
The 23-year-old from Prague said: “I have so many emotions right now, because I’ve been so nervous since last week. I wasn’t nervous at all and then I came to the green and I felt crazy nervous and I didn’t make it, so I hope I can save it for the next tournament. It was a great performance and I’m really thankful.”
Another Swede, Lynn Carlsson, recorded her career best finish of fourth place and finished on two-under-par, after a final round of 75.
The round of the week was a final round of 67, which belonged to Xi Yu Lin of China and she tied for fifth with Germany’s Karoline Lampert and 17-year-old rookie Julia Engström from Sweden.
With her win, Haglund earned a cheque for €67,500 and moved to the top of the LET order of merit, while Kemp and Splikova had to settle for a €33,750 (AUD$52,700) payday.
Queensland's Amy Walsh finished in a tie for 47th place after receiving a sponsors invitation for the tournament, while West Australian Whitney Hillier finished in a tie for 59th place.
In the men’s Hassan II Golf Trophy being played simultaneously on the Red Course, Alex Levy of France won with a winning score of eight-under-par moving to ninth on both the Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points lists respectively.
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