Home favourite Azahara Muñoz pipped Beth Allen at the final hole to become the first Spanish winner in the history of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España Femenino, playing virtually in her own back garden.
Muñoz fired rounds of 72, 66, 70 and 70 to end with a 72-hole total of 10-under-par and finish one stroke clear of Allen at the gorgeous Aloha Golf Club in Marbella, just a month after becoming the first Spanish woman to tee off in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Fighting back tears and almost overcome with emotion, Muñoz said: “It’s amazing. A victory is always a victory and it’s nice but winning at home is incredible. You know, having everyone here, my family, my friends, I can’t even describe it.”
The 28-year-old, from the nearby town of San Pedro Alcántara, just 10 minutes away from the golf club, claimed her fourth Ladies European Tour title in front of a large gallery of spectators including her parents, friends and family.
“It means everything. I love playing at home and finally we got this tournament back and hopefully for many more years. To be able to play here and just sleep at home, it’s amazing. It’s been a hard week and at the beginning of the week I was so stressed out and so anxious and finally, when I got to the first tee on Thursday, I felt so much better. It is amazing to win in front of everybody and so many people came out, so I’m really grateful to them.”
Muñoz started the final day one stroke behind Allen but the Scotland-based American had built a three stroke lead after as many birdies in seven holes. Allen made an error on the short eighth but quickly recovered with a birdie at the ninth to take a three stroke advantage though the turn.
Although Muñoz birdied the third, her putter went cold as she made a run of 10 straight pars but her patience paid off after Allen carded back to back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes. Muñoz made a crucial birdie putt on the 14th to tie for the lead but then bogeyed 15 to drop one behind again, before rolling in a monster birdie putt from eight metres on the par-3 17th to put Allen under pressure coming to the last hole.
From the 18th tee, Allen pulled her shot left into the lake and was forced to take a drop, playing her third shot up to the green. Muñoz played her approach shot from the right hand rough up to around two metres from the pin.
After Allen’s putt for par raced past the hole, Muñoz had the luxury of two putts for the victory, but it was a modest celebration. She said afterwards: “I had so many opportunities and I hit so many putts that didn’t go in, but I kept telling myself, if I keep patient, it might happen and if I lose it, then it definitely won’t happen. I kept it together and finally I made such a good putt on the 17th and it’s funny because I had a similar putt that I made in Chantaco a few years ago and I thought about it and told myself, ‘You made this one before,’ and I did.”
Allen looked as though she was on cruise control as she went out in 33 but the momentum changed at the treacherous par-4 12th, where she hit her second shot from the rough into the lake, ultimately coming home in 39. She said: “Obviously I’m super disappointed, especially having had a three shot lead going into the back nine. I just didn’t play very well on the back nine and she did, so it’s fine. It’s second but it’s not the outcome I wanted.”
There was plenty of drama on the 18th hole as moments earlier, England’s Sophie Walker holed her second shot for eagle from 138 yards using a ‘little’ 7-iron to vault into a share of third position with compatriot Georgia Hall, followed by fellow Englishwoman Florentyna Parker in solo fifth place. Parker birdied two of the last three holes, with fellow LET player Ellie Givens caddying over the weekend.
Walker said: “The aim of the game is to get it in the hole, but you never fully expect it. I heard some ‘oohs’ and then I heard the crowd really scream. It’s just an amazing feeling and you can’t think of any better way to finish an event, on the 72nd hole, holing out for eagle. It was probably the best shot I’ve ever hit.”
Aditi Ashok from India finished in solo sixth place on three-under-par while fellow LET rookie Olivia Cowan of Germany ended a stroke back in seventh, both rookies recording their career best finish on the LET. England’s Holly Clyburn, Italian Diana Luna and Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark shared eighth on level par.