Sweden’s Maja Stark put on a clinical display to win for the second time in her last three starts on the Ladies European Tour after firing a superb tournament low-round 65, which propelled her to eight-under-par and two strokes clear of Pia Babnik at the Estrella Damm Ladies Open presented by Catalunya in Sitges, Spain.
Playing in just her fifth LET event since turning professional in August, the 21-year-old talent from the small town of Abbekås started the day in a tie for 17th place on one-under-par and came from seven strokes behind the overnight leader Magdalena Simmermacher to set the clubhouse target at Club de Golf Terramar.
Simmermacher held a four-stroke lead overnight and was looking to become the first LET winner from Argentina, but she dropped four shots in her first three holes to lose her advantage, eventually signing for a 79 to end in a share of 14th place.
Stark, who won the Creekhouse Ladies Open four weeks ago, dominated the course in the windy conditions, firing three birdies and a bogey on the front nine, to go out in two-under 35, before sinking five more birdies on the back nine, including three in a row from the 10th, followed by two more at the 16th and 18th, to come home in 30.
Stark means “strong” in Swedish and she lived up to her name with her long hitting prowess. At the 18th, she hit a fearless drive of around 280 metres and then played a simple wedge before sinking her birdie putt from two metres.
From that point, no-one could catch her and 17-year-old Slovenian Babnik finished outright second on six-under-par, with Spain’s Maria Hernandez, Finland’s Krista Bakker and Scotland’s Kylie Henry tied for third on four-under-par.
Stark relished the breeze, coming from the coast of Southern Sweden and said: “I’m pretty used to it, because where I live is super windy, so perhaps I can handle it better than other people. It was a strong wind, but I think that made me focus more on the target, rather than on my technique, because I haven’t been hitting my irons that well this week.
“Today my putter was working well. I kind of had the mindset that anything could happen from the first tee shot. I just thought, one shot at a time, because anything can happen in these conditions. Maggie lost a lot of strokes and the scoreboard was constantly shifting, so it was exciting.
“I always watched Tiger winning everything when I was growing up, so sometimes when I’m struggling with my confidence, I tell myself, “I am Tiger” when I hit the shot.”
This is Stark’s third professional victory, having won the PGA Championship By Trelleborgs Kommun on the LET Access Series five weeks ago and the musical golfer, who plays the drums and guitar, revealed that she had bought herself a violin as a new challenge following her victory in Sweden last month, although she hasn’t perfected the playing just yet.
With her victory, she has moved up from 25th to sixth place on the Race to Costa del Sol Ranking and she is only the second multiple winner on the LET this year, joining the Race leader Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand.
The next LET tournament is the Aramco Team Series – New York, which takes place at Glen Oaks in a fortnight.