Maja Stark has survived an inspired charge from countrywoman Johanna Gustavsson to grab a thrilling five shot win in The Women’s NSW Open at Coolangatta Tweed Heads Golf Club today.
After starting the final round with a four-shot buffer, which she extended to five on the very first hole, what looked like being a procession became a war of attrition as the Swede failed to convert several chances on the outward nine.
Gustavsson, playing alongside Stark, took her chances when they presented themselves; a birdie on the 4th pegging the lead back to four, then two more on the 7th and 9th for an outward nine of three under saw her get to 12 under and just two back of her Swedish compatriot.
With Stark still ahead by two and the chasing pack not being able to make up ground, it became a two-horse race between the swedes as they turned for home.
The buffer was whittled to one on the 12th when Stark dropped her first shot of the day. After missing the green on the 370-metre par-four, Stark mishit her chip, leaving herself a five-metre par putt which she failed to convert.
Sadly for Gustavsson, birdie chances 12, then on 13 to tie the lead, failed to drop much to her frustration. When she drove into the trees on the 14th and had to chip out, the lead was again two.
Sadly, Gustavsson’s challenge came to an end on the 15th when she missed the green on the par three. With the pressure building, the swede mishit her chip, leaving herself a long par putt which she couldn’t convert. Stark meanwhile converted her birdie chance, and the lead was again out to four.
With the Jan Stephenson trophy pretty well in Stark’s arms, the final couple of holes became a victory lap. She sealed the deal with a birdie on the last to finish at 15 under par.
Stark admitted the final round was a far more intense affair than she had anticipated with tee shots going awry on several occasions, and Gustavsson stepping up her challenge early.
“I don’t hit it that bad on the range but,then I come out on the course, and I was wide off the tee again like usual,”
“I got a little bit stressed out, and Johanna was playing so good, but then I calmed down a bit.”
The Women’s NSW Open crown is Stark’s third title in just nine starts on the Ladies European Tour, and a victory she was quite thrilled about.
I am very happy, super happy to get my third win,” she said.
Since turning professional in 2021, the Swede has scored victories in the Creekhouse Ladies Open and the Estrella Damm Ladies Open. The win also consolidates her lead on the LET Tour’s Race to Costa Del Sol Order of Merit.
Stark joins a list of past Champions of the Women’s NSW Open which includes Dame Laura Davies (2008), Lydia Ko (2012) and fellow Swedes Caroline Hedwell (2011/13) & 2020 Champion Julia Engstrom.
Queensland amateur Sarah Hammett’s reputation continues to grow. The 15-year-old teenager has fired the round of the day, a five-under-par 67, juts one off the course record set by Stark and Gustavsson yesterday, to grab low amateur honours by a shot from Victorian Jenneath Wong and Western Australian Kirsten Rudgeley.