Australian Karen Lunn shot a superb final round of seven under par 65 to claim her first Ladies European Tour title in 13 years at the Portugal Ladies Open.
The key to her final round was a fast start at Campo Real near Lisbon, with an eagle and three birdies over the first five holes. She played the front nine in just 30 strokes for a six under par outward total, before coming home in one under par, sinking a crucial birdie putt at the last hole.
Lunn, the 1993 Women’s British Open champion, finished on 12 under par after three rounds, one shot ahead of England’s Trish Johnson, who also shot 65, and Iben Tinning of Denmark (68).
The experienced LET player, in her 26th season on Tour, was on fire from the start of her final round, making a 30 foot eagle putt at the first hole to get within a stroke of the overnight leader Italian Stefania Croce.
Further birdies at the second, fourth and fifth holes meant that she was five under for the day after as many holes and had established a two stroke lead at ten under par. She moved to 11 under with another birdie at the par-four ninth hole, where she chipped to within tap-in distance, but it could have been even better, had she holed her short birdie putt at the tough par-three eighth hole.
Two ahead at the turn, she dropped a shot with three putts on the 11th green, but made two crucial up and downs for par at the 12th and 13th holes. She knocked a shot stiff at the par-four 14th, and tapped in the birdie putt from two inches; three-putted 15; birdied 16 and then got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie on the closing par five.
She said: “It was a real roller coaster ride. I was nervous but I knew that I was playing well.
“I played really well the first two days but didn’t make anything and felt quite disappointed I was only five under. I knew that I had to get off to a quick start and I did that. I holed a nice 30 footer at the first for an eagle and a nice ten footer at the second. I played great the front nine, holed a couple of putts and then hung on the back nine. I had a couple of three putts and got a little bit nervous but I managed somehow to finish it off.”
Lunn’s most recent tournament victories were in 1997 and she said: “It’s been a long time and 1997 was my last official win in an LET event. I’ve won a couple of smaller events on the Australian Tour. I’ve always felt I could win but you do wonder if it’s ever going to happen again.”
She credited Karrie Webb, whom she partnered at the Comunitat Valenciana European Nations Cup in Spain in April, as an inspiration. The Australian pair tied for second place behind Sweden after a three-hole sudden death play-off.
“I think I took a lot away from the (Comunitat Valenciana European) Nations Cup, playing with Karrie and I played really well that week. She was really encouraging and she said to me, ‘You should take a lot away from this week and go and play well.’ She said, ‘You should be winning tournaments,’ and that was great. I think I took a lot of confidence from that. I took a lot away from that week and I’m not sure I’d be standing here if I didn’t have that experience.”
She also credited former LET professional golfer Diane Barnard, who caddied for the tournament. “I felt like I was treading water for a while on the back nine and I said to Di, ‘I’m struggling here.’ To have somebody that’s played on Tour and won tournaments and knows the pressure; Di was a great help.”
Johnson, a 15-time tournament winner playing a group ahead of Lunn, chipped in from the back of the 18th green for birdie to set the target and Tinning had a chance to catch the leader with a long eagle putt on the last hole.
England’s Florentyna Parker, the recent ABN AMRO Ladies Open champion, finished alone in fourth place on 10 under par, followed by Lee-Anne Pace, the Deutsche Bank Ladies Open champion, Mollie Fankhauser from the USA and first round leader Sophie Sandolo in equal fifth on eight under par.
The 2009 champion Johanna Westerberg finished a stroke back in a share of eighth place along with Australian Frances Bondad and Kim Welch of the United States, while the second round leader Croce finished in a tie for 15th.
Lunn, who earned a first prize of €30,000, will now head to Buenavista Golf for the Tenerife Ladies Open but she has also secured her place at this summer’s major events: the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Evian Masters presented by Société Generale.
Portugal Ladies Open
Campo Real (par 72)
204 - Karen Lunn (AUS) 69 70 65
205 - Trish Johnson (ENG) 72 68 65, Iben Tinning (DEN) 71 66 68
207 - Florentyna Parker (ENG) 70 70 67
208 - Lee-Anne Pace (SA) 71 70 67, Mollie Fankhauser (USA) 70 69 69, Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 66 71 71
209 - Johanna Westerberg (SWE) 67 75 67, Kim Welch (USA) 72 68 69, Frances Bondad (AUS) 69 70 70
210 - Kristie Smith (AUS) 71 71 68, Rebecca Coakley (IRE) 70 70 70, Veronica Zorzi (ITA) 69 71 70, Ashleigh Simon (SA) 70 68 72
211 - Lydia Hall (WAL) 75 69 67, Stefanie Michl (AUT) 70 71 70, Christel Boeljon (NL) 73 68 70, Becky Brewerton (WAL) 71 68 72, Stefania Croce (ITA) 68 68 75
212 - Felicity Johnson (ENG) 69 74 69, Kym Larratt (ENG) 68 73 71, Beth Allen (USA) 71 70 71
213 - Dana Lacey-Johnson (AUS) 73 71 69, Linda Wessberg (SWE) 71 72 70, Tandi Cuningham (SA) 74 68 71, Malene Jorgensen (DEN) 70 71 72, KM Juul (DEN) 70 71 72
214 - Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) 74 71 69, Melodie Bourdy (FRA) 70 73 71, Holly Aitchison (ENG) 68 74 72, Claire Aitken (ENG) 74 67 73
215 - Lisa Holm Sorensen (DEN) 73 72 70, Stacy Lee Bregman (SA) 74 70 71, Jade Schaeffer (FRA) 76 68 71, Sophie Walker (ENG) 71 73 71, Elizabeth Bennett (ENG) 69 75 71, Laura Cabanillas (ESP) 68 74 73
216 - Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (FRA) 69 76 71, Martina Gillen (IRE) 70 75 71, Lynn Kenny (SCO) 71 73 72, Jenni Kuosa (FIN) 72 72 72, Breanne Loucks (WAL) 68 69 79
217 - Caroline Masson (GER) 74 71 72, Nina Reis (SWE) 74 71 72, Kylie Walker (SCO) 73 70 74, Jeehae Lee (KOR) 70 72 75, Vikki Laing (SCO) 71 70 76, Rebecca Flood (AUS) 70 71 76
218 - Margherita Rigon (ITA) 72 73 73
219 - Elisabeth Esterl (GER) 73 72 74, Carmen Alonso (ESP) 73 72 74
221 - Lynnette Brooky (NZ) 72 73 76
222 - Pamela Feggans (SCO) 71 74 77, Federica Piovano (ITA) 72 72 78
224 - Caroline Rominger (SWI) 75 70 79