Stupples wins duel in the dunes

England’s Karen Stupples has defeated Amy Yang of Korea in the S4/C Wales Championship of Europe.

One week after missing out on selection for the 2009 Solheim Cup, England’s Karen Stupples claimed the S4/C Wales Championship of Europe, her first win for five years, after a final day’s duel amongst the dunes with Amy Yang at Royal St David’s GC in Harlech.

At the start of the day she trailed playing partner Yang by two shots, but a blistering start that included three birdies in the opening four holes saw her first join and then pass the Korean star who bogied two of her first four holes.

In front of the final pair Katherine Hull and Becky Brewerton were collecting birdies too, but neither could get close enough to threaten the dominance of Stupples and Yang as the last round became a head to head battle.

With the sun now pouring down on the course and the fairways lined by the biggest galleries of the week, the scene was vaguely reminiscent of Turnberry’s famous Duel in the Sun of 1977.

When the Englishwoman claimed birdie on the par-five 13th she moved to 14-under par and had a three shot advantage over Yang who could only make par after finding sand from the tee.

Following regulation pars on the short 14th, the two both found the green of the par-five 15th in two shots and looked in great shape to make birdies.

But for the first time all day Stupples stumbled, racing her eagle putt past the hole and missing the return effort.

Yang could have made life more difficult for the leader had she holed her own, far more makeable, eagle opportunity from 15 feet but it slipped past the hole.

With her lead down to two Stupples played safe with an iron from the 16th tee but hit a nervy second shot that found the sand in the front bunker leaving an awkward escape.

She played to the middle of the green to minimise the damage and two-putted for bogey.

“I knew I couldn’t win with my bunker shot, but I could lose my grip so I stayed calm and went safe,” she said.

She was helped by the fact that Yang hit her approach to ten feet but couldn’t hole the birdie putt.

Both players rose to the occasion on the penultimate hole, hitting the narrow ribbon of fairway between the out of bounds fence and bunkers before completing regulation par fours.

With the crowds packed around the short par-three 18th hole, the two golfers finally showed some nerves.

Yang missed the green to the right and Stupples found the bunker short left.

“Amy opened the door a little there,” said Stupples. “I haven’t played that hole well all week and I didn’t today but I did enough!”

She made bogey but Yang had no shot and could only add a bogey of her own to hand the Englishwoman the title and first prize cheque of £52,500.

Stupples’ final round of 66 gave her a 12-under aggregate of 276.

It was her first title since the Women’s British Open of 2004, a year when she also won the Fry’s Championship on the LPGA Tour.

“It’s been a long time,” she said with a smile and big sigh of relief after leaving the final green.

“I didn’t play too well on the closing holes but, fortunately for me, Amy couldn’t take the chance.”

The success comes just one week after she was disappointed to be overlooked for the Solheim Cup team

At the start of the week she said she hoped that, even if she was upset to have missed out on that event, she could at least draw a line under the recent months of strain to make the team either by right or by impressing the captain Alison Nicholas.

She admitted that she played this week with a weight lifted from her shoulders and it would be naïve to suppose that even some small part of her was not also determined to prove a point.

She wouldn’t be the first golfer to win in the aftermath of non-selection for a team event – Ian Poulter did the same thing when not picked for the Ryder Cup in 2006.

Yang was disappointed to add only a 71 to her 65 of Saturday but pleased with the best finish of her year.

Young European stars Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and Mel Reid of England finished with fine rounds of 67 and 66 respectively to finish in a tie for fifth on 7-under, whilst Becky Brewerton was fourth on 8-under despite admitting that “I didn’t play well all week.”

Australia’s Katherine Hull collected four birdies on the front nine but could get no lower than 9-under for third place.

-12 Karen Stupples (ENG) England 69 71 66 70
-11 Amy Yang (KOR) Korea 68 65 71 73
-9 Katherine Hull (AUS) Australia 67 68 75 69
-8 Becky Brewerton (WAL) Wales 70 67 72 71
-7 Melissa Reid (ENG) England 73 68 74 66
-7 Anna Nordqvist (SWE) Sweden 66 71 77 67
-6 Carin Koch (SWE) Sweden 70 71 73 68
-5 Diana Luna (ITA) Conte of Florence, Italy 73 68 70 72
-4 Laura Davies (ENG) England 68 74 72 70
-4 Julieta Granada (PAR) Paraguay 69 74 69 72
-4 Jade Schaeffer (FRA) Puma, Les Bijoux du Golf 69 68 71 76
-3 Iben Tinning (DEN) Denmark 71 70 74 70