Back-to-back birdies on the final two holes sealed a maiden LET victory for French amateur Lucie Malchirand at the Ladies Italian Open.
The 18-year-old carded a final round of 72 at Golf Club Margara to give her a one-shot win over Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom and England’s Gabriella Cowley.
Malchirand was competing in only her second LET event, having finished T26 at the 2020 Lacoste Ladies Open De France, but the young star held her nerve down the home stretch to become the first amateur to win the Ladies Italian Open.
“I’m still shaking from my last putt! It was an amazing day. I played up and down, I made bogeys and birdies and bogeys and birdies, so it was quite stressful, but it was really good,” she said.
“On the back nine there are a lot of leaderboards, so I saw my name on top and then going down and then back on top. I thought to myself I need to do my best, but I finally did it and it’s amazing!
“After my putt on 17, I thought maybe I could do it and then with a par-five 18th I thought this is my time. I think my dad is happy, but he was more stressed than me. I saw him on the course, but I finally did it and I’m so happy. Thank you, dad, for supporting me. Thank you so much.”
On a fiercely contested final day, it was Scotland’s Michele Thomson who set the early clubhouse lead posting a 67 to leave her five-under-par for the tournament.
Soon enough another marker was laid down, this time when Finland’s Wikstrom made an eagle on 18 to shoot a final round of 68 and put her one shot ahead of Thomson.
As the final group made their way down the stretch, there was plenty of change at the top of the leaderboard but coming into the last two holes Cowley and Wikstrom headed the field before Malchirand’s birdie on 17 made it a three-way tie at the top.
A playoff seemed likely, but it was the teenage sensation, who was part of Team Europe at the 2019 PING Junior Solheim Cup, who rolled in a birdie putt from a few feet on 18 to take the top honours.
Commenting on her best-ever finish on the LET, Cowley said: “Right now, it’s hard to take it all in but tied for second is still a great week and I’ll take a lot from it. I’ve left putts short all day, I thought it was my time, but it wasn’t.”
Thomson finished T4 alongside Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou and Wales’ Chloe Williams, while Roberta Liti was the best-placed Italian in the field as she ended the tournament in T7 on four-under-par with England’s Ellie Givens and South Africa’s Lejan Lewthwaite.
Lee-Anne Pace still leads the 2021 Race to Costa del Sol after her victory at the Investec South African Women’s Open with Germany’s Leonie Harm in second; Wikstrom sits nine points behind the German in third with Cowley fourth.