Gwladys Nocera of France birdied the last three holes to clinch the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open title by two strokes from defending champion Carlota Ciganda of Spain after a windy and overcast final day at Suzhou Taihu International Golf Club.
The 38-year-old fired a final round seven-under 65 - with five birdies in the last six holes –for a three-round total of 15 under par, collecting her 12th Ladies European Tour victory.
Ciganda shot a 68, while 17-year-old Chinese amateur Jing Yan had a 67 to end on 12 under par in solo third place.
Nocera said the win made amends for the disappointment of 2009, when she finished second, a stroke behind Korea’s Bo Mi Suh, after being penalised two strokes for reporting late to the tee.
“I finished second with a stroke penalty so I didn’t feel like I deserved it and I knew I had revenge to take. It took me a while but I have my revenge and it’s nice,” said Nocera, who won the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in June.
She was later dressed in Chinese costume and carried on a chariot by four men dressed like Chinese warriors to the prize presentation area. "Wow! That was great and innovative, arriving for prize presentation on a chariot. It was pretty fun," she said after receiving the trophy.
Nocera fired three birdies on the front nine, at the first, fourth and fifth holes, then three putted the 10th for bogey. But she stayed patient and picked up birdies at13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 to deny Ciganda.
Nocera said: “I played really well today and made all the putts I had. I just three putted 10, but I couldn’t play any better, I don’t think. It’s really nice, I’ve been struggling for many years with my putting and it’s coming back. It’s a really good feeling.
“I didn’t have any expectations. I told myself, ‘You’re here to play golf and you’re playing good, so just play golf. It doesn’t matter what it’s for, just play.’ I had three good putts at the end to make birdies on 16, 17 and 18 so I think I was really relaxed and I really like the greens. They are really good here and it’s pleasant to putt on them.”
For Ciganda, it was so close and yet so far. After a great front nine, with four birdies, she stalled with two bogeys on 11 and 13 before recovering with two birdies. She had a 30 metre putt on the 18th green for an eagle which would have forced a play-off, but ended up with a par.
“I was making putts, hitting the ball very solid and then on the back nine, I three putted on 10 and missed a few short putts. I think that’s where I lost the tournament,” Ciganda said. “I’m happy. At least I’m in the top three, that it where you want to be, but only one player can win and I played with Gwladys the first two days. She has been playing great golf and I’m happy for her. She’s a great player and a great person too.”
There was excitement for the home fans as Yan led the tournament outright after 14 holes, but the the 17-year-old from Shanghai, who lives in Singapore, bogeyed 15 and could not keep up the momentum.
“Today was a pretty good day for me, especially for 15 holes, because I had seven birdies and two bogeys. The putting was pretty good. I didn’t feel like I was on my game before the round, so I felt nervous going into it but I sank the first putt and that gave me confidence. My irons were going well today but on 15 I chipped it to three feet and read too much break into it and had too much speed so it lipped out. I didn’t make the birdie putts on 16 and 17. On 18 I ran into a bit of trouble on my drive and then hit it to the right so not so good from there.
“I’m pretty satisfied except for the last few holes. I felt like I could have given it a bit more from that position. This is my first time with a top ten in the LET so in that position I was urging myself to do a bit more but sometimes couldn’t really stay in the present and missed the opportunities.”
Joanna Klatten of France ended in fourth place at 11 under after a final round of eight under par 64, with Charley Hull and Patcharajutar Kongkrapan a stroke back in a tie for fifth place.
The Ladies European Tour now takes a three week break, before the Hero Women’s Indian Open at Delhi Golf Club, which will be the penultimate tournament of the year.