Sweden’s Jenny Haglund made a birdie on the second play-off hole to claim her first Ladies European Tour title at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Rabat, Morocco.
Haglund shared a three-way tie for the 72-hole lead with overnight co-leader Sarah Kemp and the 2017 event champion Klara Spilkova on three-under-par 285, after firing rounds of 75, 72, 68 and 70 over the Blue Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
The trio returned to the 18th tee and made pars at the first extra hole, but Haglund took the spoils after she blasted a 249-metre/272-yard drive down the 18th fairway and converted a four-foot putt for birdie from below the hole.
“It feels amazing! It’s been a great tournament and a great week and I’m very happy that it finished this way,” said the 24-year-old second year LET member from Karlstad, who had previously won the 2016 Norrporten Ladies Open on the LET Access Series, a few weeks after turning professional.
Haglund, who tied for 11th in the 2017 Lalla Meryem Cup as a rookie, began the final round four strokes behind the leaders and played the front nine in level par, but made three birdies coming home at holes 12, 14 and 15 to take the outright lead, before dropping back into a tie with a three-putt bogey on the difficult 16th, playing downwind.
“When I made those three birdies on the back nine, going into 16, I knew I had a chance, because I saw the leader board by the green. I kept going and played my game and it was enough to get me into the play-off,” she said.
“The last drive was a bomb! I was just in the moment, I wasn’t shaking, but I was shaking after the ball was in.
“It will definitely build a lot of confidence. I’ve been working on that part a lot so I’m very happy to be standing here and I’m very proud of myself.”
It was so near but so far for Kemp, whose short birdie putt at the second extra hole ran agonisingly close by.
The 32-year-old from New South Wales made some key up and downs over the front nine to build a two-stroke lead.
She then chipped in for birdie at the 10th to extend her lead to three strokes, but the 11th hole was her undoing after she drove her ball right into the water hazard and hit her next shot through the green, running up a double bogey six.
The 13-season professional would have to settle for her third runner-up finish on the LET, following the 2006 Catalonia Ladies Masters and the 2010 New Zealand Open and a 26th top-10 finish in total.
She said: “I’m obviously a little disappointed. I didn’t play as well as I had the past few days, but my goal this week was to put myself in contention and I did that, so it’s my equal best finish out on the Ladies European Tour and all in all it’s been a great week.
“I actually really enjoyed the play-off. I was nervous, but I had a really good time. I hope that I get that opportunity again and hopefully I can do something different. All in all, I achieved my goal for this week and the more I’m in this situation the better I’ll get at it.”
Spilkova, who tied for second, had holed a solid 12-foot putt for birdie on 17 to tie for the lead and had a golden opportunity to win in regulation play with a five-footer for birdie on the 18th green, but her apprehensive effort ended above the hole.
The 23-year-old from Prague said: “I have so many emotions right now, because I’ve been so nervous since last week. I wasn’t nervous at all and then I came to the green and I felt crazy nervous and I didn’t make it, so I hope I can save it for the next tournament. It was a great performance and I’m really thankful.”
Another Swede, Lynn Carlsson, recorded her career best finish of fourth place and finished on two-under-par, after a final round of 75.
The round of the week was a final round of 67, which belonged to Xi Yu Lin of China and she tied for fifth with Germany’s Karoline Lampert and 17-year-old rookie Julia Engström from Sweden.
Two more rookies, Katja Pogacar from Slovenia and Laura Fuenfstueck of Germany, tied for eighth place with Sweden’s Lina Boqvist.
With her win, Haglund earned a cheque for €67,500 and moved to the top of the LET order of merit, with Kemp second and Spilkova third.
In the men’s Hassan II Golf Trophy being played simultaneously on the Red Course, Alex Levy of France won with a winning score of eight-under-par and he moved to ninth on both the Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points lists respectively.