Maiden Tour win for Chen
South African Connie Chen fired a superb final round of three-under-par 69 in hot and breezy conditions to earn her first Ladies European Tour victory at the Tenerife Open de España Femenino in the Canary Islands.
The 21-year-old from Pretoria ended on 12-under-par and two strokes clear of home favourite Carlota Ciganda after four rounds, with Beth Allen of the United States a stroke further behind in third and England’s Charley Hull in solo fourth place.
“I’m so happy, I was so nervous today teeing off and being able to keep going and make that eagle on the back nine gave me a good feeling for the day,” said Chen, whose previous best finish in four years on tour was a tie for seventh in this year’s Sberbank Golf Masters in the Czech Republic.
Chen began the final round tied for the lead with Amy Boulden at Golf Costa Adeje but started strongly with a birdie on the picturesque fourth hole. The 1.52m tall Chinese-South African dropped a stroke on the par-3 seventh but took the outright lead at 10-under with a birdie on the par-4 eighth.
She moved a stroke further ahead with a simple birdie on the 11th but after sinking a downhill putt from 30 feet for eagle on the par-5 13th, she gained a four stroke advantage over four other players and played steady golf until the final hole.
Three strokes clear of Ciganda with a hole to play, Chen hit two superb shots to the edge of the par-5 18th green but mishit her chip and finished with a bogey. “I was very nervous over that chip,” said Chen, who missed seven cuts from 12 starts on the LET this season. “I just acknowledged that it’s only natural to be nervous and tried to focus on other things to distract me, like the scenery and blue skies.”
Having arrived at the venue a week early to practise on the greens, her preparation was meticulous and she and her father Hong, who acts as her caddie, decided to take a more relaxed approach.
“It’s nice that we worked really well this week together. It was a little different to our usual disagreements on the golf course,” said Chen.
“We just discussed that there are some things that work, with him being my father and us being so close, and some things that we need to get a little bit of distance in the relationship and chill out. With him being so close to me he wants me to do so well, so he was able to let go of that and let me play my own game this week.”
With her victory, Chen becomes the 12th first time winner of a Ladies European Tour event this season and her next event will be the Cell C South African Women’s Open next month.
Although Ciganda failed to become the first Spanish winner of the championship, she took positive thoughts from a final round of 69.
After birdies on the third and fifth, she felt that her the eighth hole, where she misjudged the distance, changed the momentum and she quickly bogeyed holes nine and ten, before adding three more birdies on the back nine.
“It’s a pity, because I wanted to win so badly and this was the only objective in my mind. If you can’t win, then the best position is second, so I am happy because when I think about this tournament it will give me confidence for the future,” Ciganda said.
On seven-under-par, Nontaya Srisawang, Nikki Campbell, Celine Herbin, Hannah Burke and Pamela Pretswell shared fifth place and Amy Boulden and Christine Wolf ended a stroke further behind in a share of 10th.
Despite slipping down the leader board with a final round of 75, Boulden earned her third top ten finish of the season and remains second to Sally Watson in the rookie of the year race.
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