Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands outlasted local star Yuting Shi in an enthralling final round duel to earn her first Ladies European Tour title at the Xiamen International Ladies Open in China.
Van Dam, 21, from Arnhem, fired rounds of 70, 66, 67 and 68 to end on 17-under-par and one stroke ahead of Shi, who bogeyed the final hole at Orient Golf Club.
The pair started the final round, played in hot and humid conditions, tied for the lead on 13-under-par before Van Dam took control with a birdie on the second hole.
The tall and long-hitting Dutchwoman went two strokes ahead with an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole, but there was a two shot swing at the sixth, which Van Dam bogeyed and Shi birdied, before the diminutive Shi took the lead with a birdie on the seventh hole.
The 18-year-old Shi, from Beijing, then bogeyed the 10th, but quickly recovered with a birdie at the 11th. Van Dam missed a great opportunity on the 14th but levelled the scores when she made a 40cm birdie putt on the par-4 16th hole. Drama ensued at the 17th when Van Dam drove left onto the 18th fairway, but she hit an excellent recovery shot and matched Shi with a birdie.
The pair remained tied coming to the 18th tee, but Shi’s drive hit a tree and bounced back 30 yards down the fairway, meaning that she could not reach the green in regulation and took a pitch and two putts for bogey. Van Dam was able to make two putts from the back of the green for par to seal the victory, worth €45,000, in the event which was almost cancelled three weeks earlier due to a huge typhoon.
The players donated 10 per cent of their earnings to local relief efforts and the greenkeepers worked overtime to ensure that the course was in championship condition. For Van Dam, it could not have been any better and she said: “It’s a big boost. I mean, it’s my second year on tour and so far I didn’t reach my potential at all, so it’s pretty sweet to get this win.”
She added: “I’m just glad I stayed so patient out there today. On the sixth hole I made a bogey and from there I just made pars all the way in. I hit really good shots but my putting was not there yet. I said to myself, stay patient, because you never know what can happen. I mean, 16, 17, were absolutely crazy. On 16, I had a perfect distance for my gap wedge. I just looked at the pin and wanted to hole that shot. From the first hole, I pretty much just tried to hole every approach shot into the green.”
When asked if she felt nervous, she replied: “I have to say, today was pretty good. It was just the last putt: you could feel everything going nuts. It was so short, it was just straight back and straight through and in the hole.”
Runner-up Shi felt that the 18th hole had been ‘bad luck’ and said: “I tried my best with every single shot at the last hole, but it didn’t work out.”
Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras finished in third place on 14-under and Amelia Lewis of the United States was fourth.
In a tie for fifth with Thailand’s Supamas Sangchan and Yu-Ju Chen of Chinese Taipei, Lydia Hall from Wales registered her best finish on the LET since her victory at the 2012 ISPS HANDA Ladies British Masters. Frenchwoman Valentine Derrey and Malene Jorgensen of Denmark shared eighth place with Indian rookie Aditi Ashok, who recorded her fourth straight top-10 finish on the LET.
The 2016 LET continues with the Sanya Ladies Open in China, where Van Dam will be looking for a second straight victory in a fortnight’s time.