Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom came from four strokes behind the overnight leader Céline Boutier of France to claim a two stroke victory in the Ladies European Tour’s Final Stage Lalla Aicha Tour School for 2017 in Morocco.
Sagstrom carded a four-under-par 68 in beautiful conditions at Samanah Golf Club on Wednesday for a five day, 90-hole score of 343, 17-under-par, to win by two shots over Valdis Thora Jonsdottir of Iceland.
Boutier, who had either led outright or held a share of the lead for the first four rounds, ended with a 75 to tie for third place on 14-under-par with Karolin Lampert of Germany, Agathe Sauzon of France and Australian teenager Celina Yuan.
Exactly 30 players qualified for Category 8 Membership of the LET, with the mark falling at two-under-par. Players who finished in positions 31-66 are entitled to LET Membership in Category 9b.
There are 14 different countries represented amongst the players that finished in the top 30 places and 24 nationalities among the top 66.
Sagstrom, who also won the Pre-Qualifier B, at Royal Golf Anfa Mohammedia, last week, said: “I’ve had a great time in Morocco and it’s lovely to be out here. The golf courses are in great shape: both Amelkis and Samanah were really good. I’ve just had a great time and been fortunate to experience Moroccan culture. We went down to the big market and I’ve been really happy here. I’m looking forward to a Christmas break now, but I thank Morocco for everything. It’s been amazing to be here. I stuck to my game plan and really enjoyed myself, because it was my last round of 2016. I just had a big smile on my face all day.”
Jonsdottir, who has played for three years on the LET Access Series, also carded a final round of 68. She said: “It could have been a little bit better, but I’m very satisfied with a 68 in the fifth round and I’ve been playing a lot. I had to play in the first stage as well last week. I will be a rookie in 2016. I could have had conditional status before, but I decided I was too far down the list, so I took the decision to play on the LET Access Series for three years and I finally did it!”
When asked about the rise of Icelandic talent on the women’s international tours, she commented: “We have good coaches in Iceland and they are very well educated. We have good indoor facilities, so even during the toughest months we can still practise indoors and focus on technique and stuff. I think that’s helped a lot. Olafia (Kristinsdottir) did great and I consider myself no worse a player than she is, so I did have something to prove, that I could do it as well, so that always helps.”
Of the players who finished in joint third place, Celina Yuan, who has just finished high school and will turn 18 on 6th January, said: “I wasn’t expecting to get anywhere near the top 10. I wasn’t happy with how I played on the last day, but a top 10 is good enough for me. I hope to make all the cuts in 2017 and play well enough to be happy!”
After a disappointing final round, Céline Boutier said: “My game was off a bit and I missed a couple of putts. Right now, it’s tough, because I played well all week. My goal was to get my card and I got it, so I’m looking forward to next year.”
Agathe Sauzon, who finished 112th on the 2016 LET Order of Merit, said: “I’m really happy because it’s been a really rough season for my rookie year on the LET. I feel quite positive for 2017. I played better and better this week and my putting was great. I’ll try to get ready sooner and I would like to be in the top 40 next year.”
Karolin Lampert, who also finished third at Lalla Aicha Tour School a year ago, before ending the 2016 season ranked 102nd, commented: “I’m really happy, especially with the last two rounds. Shooting five and four-under with no bogeys over the last 36 was really good and I’m looking forward to coming back to the LET next year.”
Amandeep Drall ended in a tie for seventh with Stefania Avanzo and continued the trend of an increasing Indian presence on the Ladies European Tour.
She said: “It feels great to play great golf for all five days. I wasn’t really expecting to play such good golf. I was expecting a decent two-under every day or something, but two good rounds at the beginning of the week really set me off in a good direction, so I continued it through the last few rounds.
“I think Indian golf is going great and we’re moving in the right direction. I think the Indian players have great talent, so we just need to get out there and hone our skills and show it to the world. I think it’s great that a lot of Indian girls are coming out on tour.”
Madelene Stavnar, 16, finished ninth and made history as the youngest Norwegian to qualify for the LET, while Alexandra Bonetti from France finished 10th.
Should all of the top 66 take Membership in 2017, then there will be 36 rookies on the LET next year: Madelene Sagstrom, Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Celina Yuan, Céline Boutier, Amandeep Drall, Madelene Stavnar, Alexandra Bonetti, Cajsa Persson, Inci Mehmet, Lauren Horsford, Camille Chevalier, Andrea Wong, Vani Kapoor, Frida Gustafsson Spang, Puk Lyng Thomsen, Luna Sobron, Yan Liu, Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso, Eva Gilly, Bethan Popel, Silvia Banon, Angela Thenn, Meghan MacLaren, Lucy Goddard, Celine Borge, Saaniya Sharma, Chloe Williams, Elizabeth Mallett, Francesca Cuturi, Sideri Vanova, Hana Wakimoto, Jenny Lee, Lejan Lewthwaite, Sarah Nilsson, Josefin Odering and Emma Grechi.