(Newry, County Down, August 17 2003) Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson rarely provides a dull moment in her golf and in winning the £22,500 first prize at the BT Ladies Open at Warrenpoint GC, the Swede produced one of the most dramatic finishes of the year to snatch her second tournament in as many weeks and her fourth in the last 11 months in Europe.

The winning putt – delightful!

Nicholas, the Solheim Cup vice-captain, was admirable in defeat and gave all credit to the Swede, who now tops the Ladies European Tour order of merit ahead of World number one Annika Sorenstam and England’s Laura Davies.

“That eagle was huge,” said Nicholas, who, if she had won here, could have qualified for this year’s Solheim team in the seven automatic places if she finished fourth place or better at next week’s Wales WPGA Championship of Europe at Royal Porthcawl.

“I realise why I am the vice-Captain now!” she laughed. “We had a great battle all day and Sophie just played better than me at the end. I knew I needed the putt at the last hole and I think I might have given her the read too!

“It’s the first time I have been up there for a long while and I don’t think I disgraced myself by any means. It was a tough, tough day and Sophie made the vital putts when it mattered most – All credit to her, she’s a great girl.”

Tinning closed with a disappointing 74 to finish on eight under, two shots clear of French Open Champion Lynnette Brooky, who had a 75 and three clear of Germany’s Elisabeth Esterl, a Solheim Cup rookie this year.

The powerful Dane can relax in the knowledge that nobody can knock her out of the top seven automatic rankings and will represent Europe in The Solheim Cup at Barseback GC in three weeks time alongside Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Gustafson, Esterl and Ana Belen Sanchez, who is all but guaranteed her place to face the USA.

But Scotland’s Mhairi McKay, who withdrew from the field this week, will have to play well next week in Wales if she is to hold on to the seventh and final spot in the rankings.

With 60 points available to the winner, the seventh and final place is still up for grabs and the Australian Open champion may have to rely on a captain’s wild card pick if she is to play the second year running in Team Europe.