England’s Meghan MacLaren has defended her Worrells NSW Open Championship in a dramatic final day at Queanbeyan Golf Club.
On a day where the lead swapped several times, it was MacLaren who held her nerve over the closing stages to claim the crown by three shots from her playing partner, Sweden’s Lynn Carlsson and surprise packet, Munchin Keh, who finished a couple of groups ahead of the Englishwoman.
MacLaren started the day tied for the lead with Carlsson, the Swede struck an early blow with a birdie on the third to grab a one-shot lead, but fell back quickly with a pair of ill-timed bogeys on the 4th and 5th. Maclaren, despite a bogey on the second stayed in touch. A birdie on the 3rd and another on the 5th were enough for her to go to a one-shot lead.
While the lead group were trading bogeys and birdies, Keh, playing two groups in front, quietly went about her business, picking up three shots with birdies on the 2nd, 3rd, and 7th holes to get within a shot.
The fireworks began, however, when the final groups turned for home.
The third player in the final group, Christine Wolf, jumped into a share of the lead at nine-under on the 12th. Sadly, she stumbled with dropped shots on 14, & 15 and her chances dissolved.
Carlsson, after righting the ship following three bogeys on the front nine, found trouble at the worst time on the back with dropped shots at the 12th and 15th cruelling her chances.
All the while Keh just stayed in the mix. When she birdied the 14th, she found herself in a four-way tie for the lead. A stunning eagle on the par-five 16th meant there was a genuine chance the Championship would be heading across the Tasman for the second time.
Sadly for Keh though, she saved her worst for last, and a disastrous double bogey on the 18th cruelled what would have been an incredible come from behind win.
MacLaren, unsure where she stood, knew a birdie or better on the pivotal 16th was a must for her chances of defending the crown.
When she striped her second shot three wood to about 6 feet and setting up an eagle, MacLaren knew she was still right in the mix.
A safe par on 17 meant she walked to the final hole at 11 under par. By then, the news had filtered back about Keh’s snafu on the last meaning Maclaren had a two-shot buffer.
She didn’t need it though, and after rifling her approach on the last to about 12 feet, she calmly sank the birdie putt to reclaim her crown.
MacLaren was ecstatic after the round. ”It was pretty gritty out there for a long time and quite nerve-wracking.
“As much as you want it to be like the last few days and all controlled and straight forward, it just wasn’t like that.
“I had to hang in there and even though I dropped a couple of shots.
“I knew that things were going to be close, and nobody was running away with i.
“I just hoped for a moment of magic somewhere, and it happened.
MacLaren said that magical moment was her second shot on the 16th.
“It’s funny, I had almost the same shot yesterday where I had to hit a 30, 40 yard cut with a 3-wood around the trees and I pulled it off yesterday, so I thought, I know I’ve done it; I know I need something.
“I knew the lead had gone to 11-under at that point, so I was chasing, and as soon as I hit it, I hoped that it would be right and it was. I rolled in the putt.”
Maclaren added it felt kind of weird to know she had successfully defended her crown.
“It’s not at the same course, so it almost doesn’t feel like the same tournament.
“Last year was my first win, and that was a big deal, and I don’t think anything can compare to that. You don’t want to be a one-win wonder. There was a bit more pressure this week, so to come through that feels amazing.”
As for the winning celebrations, MacLaren said her travel schedule (she is flying to South Africa meant they were going to be quick.
“I have a three-hour drive back to Sydney, I think one of the girls will be sneaking in a bottle of champagne, for the ride,” She smiled.
-12 Meghan MacLaren
-9 Munchin Keh, Lynn Carlsson
-7 Christine Wolf
-6 Felicity Johnson, Diksha Dagar, Valdis Jonsdottir,
-5 Emma Nilsson, Karolin Lampert.