Indian teenager Aditi Ashok earned her third Ladies European Tour title in 12 months after a tense finish to the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi.
The 19-year-old from Bangalore began the final day at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club with a two-stroke lead and seemed to be in cruise control for most of the round.
She made a nervy start with a bogey on the fifth hole, but bounced back with six birdies in her next 11 holes to open a four-stroke advantage with three holes to play.
Then, from nowhere, she four-putted at the par-3 17th reducing her lead to just one stroke over Georgia Hall.
She watched from the tee as the Englishwoman made a par four on the difficult 18th and then stepped up to make her own par under extreme pressure, playing a perfect approach shot up to the green over water on the closing hole.
Explaining her aberration on the 17th, Aditi said: “It wasn’t really nerves, I think I just lapsed for a bit and made a four-putt. I was playing okay all day, but didn’t make as many birdie putts as I wanted to. I’m just glad I came out on top. I had my game plan and wasn’t too aggressive. I just kept giving myself birdie putts and that was the plan on 17 as well. I don’t know how I ended up four-putting and I did the same on 18, gave myself a birdie putt and it didn’t go in, so I guess that was the story of my putting today, but the birdies in the middle helped.”
With rounds of 67, 66, 68 and 69, and a winning score of 18-under-par, the second-year professional golfer finished a stroke ahead of Hall and took home a first prize cheque for €70,788.
Hall finished as the bridesmaid for the second successive year, her final round of 66 being the joint best score of the day.
She said afterwards: “I’m a little bit disappointed because I thought I needed an eight-under today and I was ticking the shots off in my head. I hit the ball great all week, but I putted poorly and didn’t hole anything today. All my birdie chances were inside 10 feet. Aditi played great again and managed to get a par on the last, so well done to her.
“I played one of the best long games I have played all year but the putts weren’t going in and I was in between clubs on the last hole and went for the longer one. Maybe a bit of adrenaline went through me and I hit it too long but I made a good up and down. As far as I knew, I thought Aditi was 20-under so I was three behind going down the last, so I didn’t think I had a chance. If I had known, then maybe things would have been different.”
Camilla Lennarth, who had fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson on her bag for the first time, finished a stroke further back in outright third place on 16-under, having birdied three of the last four holes, with Cheyenne Woods of the United States in fourth and Linda Wessberg in fifth. Ellie Givens, who had played in the final group, tied for 11th place and Lee-Anne Pace, who had led for the first two rounds, shared 27th.
It was Aditi Ashok who was handed the trophy by the UAE’s Minister of State for Happiness, Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi and the rising Indian star was finally able to smile.
It was her third LET title, following her previous back-to-back wins at the Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open in her rookie season in 2016.
She will look to emulate that feat next week when she heads to her home country to begin her defence of the Hero Women’s Indian Open, starting on Friday at DLF Golf Club in Gurgaon.
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open belonged to Ashok though, who demonstrated consistency and skill all week that is bound to inspire those who got to witness how thrilling women’s golf is today.
Dr Mai Al Jaber, Board Member of The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy said: “Congratulations to all the lady golfers. It has been wonderful to witness their power and grace this week and they have provided us with four days of amazing action. I have no doubt that their participation will inspire women of all ages to become involved in this sport.
“As members of the Abu Dhabi sporting community, our vision is to inspire the next generation of UAE sports stars by offering them the platform to succeed. We look forward to continuing the tournament’s legacy and further growing the game here in Abu Dhabi.”
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary at Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), owner of the event, said: “We would like to thank Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak – Mother of the Nation, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, for her continued efforts in ensuring ladies excel in all sports and positioning Abu Dhabi as a global sports destination for them.
“We saw a great numbers of visitors over the past four days, which we consider to be a huge success in encouraging ladies and young people to play this game. This tournament will continue to at the forefront of the global agenda as one of the most important stages for the players to compete in.
“I would like to congratulate Aditi for her four amazing days and becoming the second winner.”
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open teed off a ground-breaking week for women’s sport in Abu Dhabi. The LET event is closely followed by the International Conference of Sports for Women (ICSW), a milestone event and internationally-recognized platform with a clear agenda at its heart – to inspire future generations by focusing attention on key topics that play a pivotal role in increasing female participation in sport.
ICSW will take place on Monday 6, and Tuesday 7, November at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), welcoming a world-class line-up of panellists and speakers from the world of women’s sport.
Amongst the line-up of sporting pioneers are three Olympic medallists, the winner of 10 Special Olympics medals in seven separate disciplines, the founder of the internationally-acclaimed Beirut Marathon, the Head of Global Sponsorship Marketing at VISA, the youngest Arab to have conquered Mount Everest, the oldest record holder in international triathlon history, and a 14-time Muay Thai World Champion.
Over the week, more than just golf was enjoyed at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. The Tournament Village teemed with visitors who enjoyed delicious food and drink, family fun and views of Saadiyat Beach Golf Club’s fairways basked in the Arabian sun. Visitors enjoyed activities such as chipping challenges, the regions first-ever ‘paint golf’, and introductory beginners’ sessions in the popular tournament village, as well as culinary food truck delights.
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open is sponsored by: FBMA, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, TDIC, Al Masaood, Etihad Airways, Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi and Omega.
More information is available at www.fbmladiesopen.com, on Instagram and Twitter (@FBMLadiesOpen), and on Facebook.