Danish amateur Nanna Madsen posted a tournament record equalling nine under par 63 in the last round of Lalla Aicha Tour School Final Qualifying to earn a two stroke victory and access to the 2015 Ladies European Tour.
One of the most intense events in golf came to a gripping conclusion on a sun-kissed final day at Samanah Golf Club, set against a stunning backdrop of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
After a marathon of golf over five rounds on the Al Maaden and Samanah courses, 34 players from 17 different countries earned eligibility for Membership of the Ladies European Tour in Category 8a with a score of one over par or better.
At the summit, 20-year-old Madsen from Copenagen showed enormous potential as she reeled off 10 birdies and one bogey to finish on a 90-hole total of 343, 17-under-par.
Overnight leader Georgia Hall from England, who had led since the first round, managed a 71 to end on 15 under in second position, while Germany’s Sophia Popov made a flying start but bogeyed the 18th to drop into outright third.
Madsen said: “It’s really great to win the tour card and I’m really excited to play on the Ladies European Tour next year. It’s been a long week: five rounds, the longest tournament I’ve ever played, but it’s been a pleasure being here in Morocco. It’s been wonderful weather and the golf has been really great. Today I made a lot of putts and hit a lot of great shots. Yesterday I hit a lot of great shots too but the putts didn’t go into the hole.”
The birdies and eagles were flying on the final day and another Danish amateur, Emily Kristine Pedersen, also from Smørum Golfklub, fired a 65 to take fourth spot.
South African Nicole Garcia was fifth, with Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann and Kelsey Macdonald in a tie for sixth. Swedes Louise Stahle and Anjelika Hammar were eighth and ninth respectively.
Morocco’s Maha Haddioui tied for 10th place to regain her full tour card for 2015 and she said: “The job is done, I am in top 30, so I can move on now. There was a lot of pressure today but my game was very consistent during the whole week, except my putting today. But I am in. So I am very happy.”
Ice-cool Madsen said: “I didn’t feel any pressure. I was hunting the other girls all the time and then I was leading by two shots on the 18th so I wasn’t really nervous today. I was nervous yesterday but not today.
On her boyfriend, Nicki Hansen, caddying, she continued: “He’s had a hard job trying to keep me calm all the time but today I think he helped me to play good golf.
“I didn’t expect to win. I mean, I did see a low score on this course but I was surprised that I made six birdies on the back nine.”
Hall, who began the final day with a six stroke lead, admitted that she hadn’t expected such low scoring. She said: “I thought there would be a four under, five under and I thought if I shot one or two under that would do it. I didn’t play that well but I didn’t play that badly either. I’m definitely pleased to have my tour card and I’ve done what I needed to do at the end of the day.”
Popov had a dream start and was seven under through 11 holes, but it wasn’t enough to catch Madsen. She said: “I had a really good front nine. I just couldn’t drop anything the back nine but of course I’m happy with a six under.” She now hopes to qualify for The 2015 Solheim Cup, at her home club in Germany.
The players are joining the Ladies European Tour at an exciting time. In addition to a full schedule of events in 2015, The Solheim Cup will take place at Golf Club St Leon-Rot in September and this will be followed in 2016 by golf’s return to the Olympic Games.
The 2015 Ladies European Tour season gets under way with the RACV Ladies Masters in Queensland on February 12, after a seven week break from tournament golf.