England’s Georgia Hall created a major slice of history when she produced the performance of her life to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The-then 16-year won the 2012 British Girls’ Championship at Tenby and then added the British Ladies’ title 12 months later and now just five years later she has become the first player to complete the national treble by carding a closing 67 to add the British Women’s Open title to her name.
Thailand’s Pananong Phatlum started the final round one shot ahead of Hall and two in front of two-time major winner So Yeon Ryu. Sung Hyun Park, Mamika Higa and Minjee Lee were also in close attendance but it turned out to be a two-horse race when both the Thai and the English player raced to the turn in three under par 32.
At that stage Phatlum was still one shot out in front but Hall drew level with her fourth birdie of the round on the 15th and then took the lead for the first time in the championship with another birdie on the next hole.
The golf throughout the final round had been of the highest calibre but Phatlum dropped two shots when she drove into a bunker on the 17th and in the end Hall could afford to three-putt the last for just her third bogey of the week to card a five-under par 67 and complete a two- shot victory on 17-under par 271.
With her win Hall becomes just the third British player after Karen Stupples and Catriona Matthew to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open since it became a major in 2001 and just the fourth English major winner after Laura Davies (four majors) Alison Nicholas (one major) and Stupples (one major).
Hall’s $490,000 winner’s cheque will move her into the top-15 on the 2018 LPGA Money list just a matter of months after topping the equivalent list on the Ladies European Tour.
Her maiden professional victory will also undoubtedly change her life.
“I can’t really believe it,” she said. “I always said my first professional victory would be a major but I can’t believe it has actually come true.
“All day long I just told myself to stay calm and not think about anything. I thought I might cry at the end but I’m over the moon.
“I’m very grateful for all the support I had out there,” she added. “It’s something I will never forget.”
“I didn’t hit it good on the back nine but I’m still happy,” said Phatlum who earned a second-place cheque for $323,646. “She (Georgia) played so amazing today. Everything was perfect. She is from here and everyone was rooting for her. I’m so happy she won.”
Further down the leaderboard South Korea’s Ryu recovered from a triple bogey seven on the 3rd and a bogey on the 4th to card a two under par 70 and finish third on 15-under par 275. 2016 champion Ariya Juntanugarn closed with a second successive 69 to share fourth place with Japan’s Higa and Korea’s Sei Young Kim on nine under par 279 while Spain’s Carlota Ciganda completed the championship with a 70 to finish tied seventh with Shanshan Feng and Yu Liu one shot further behind.
Silver medal for Thitikul
Phatlum was not quite able to claim her first major title but it turned out to be a banner day for her 15-year-old compatriot Attaya Thitikul who claimed her second low amateur award of the season when she won the Smyth Salver at Royal Lytham & St Annes
The 15-year-old from Ratchaburi earned spots at the ANA Inspiration and the Ricoh Women’s British Open with her win in the inaugural Women’s Asia-Pacific Championship and she went on to finish tied-30th in the former and tied-64th at the latter to finish as leading amateur in both.
Thitikul also earned a place in the HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore with her triumph in the Asia-Pacific Championship and while there she confirmed her huge potential with a tie for eighth place behind Michelle Wie.
“This means a lot,” she said after adding her name to a list of past Smyth Salver winners that includes Wie, Lydia Ko, Georgia Hall and Leona Maguire. “It gives me a lot of confidence to play in other tournaments but I know I still have to improve a lot if I am going to compete against the top professionals.
“I’ve also got a lot to learn about links golf,” she added. “It’s tough but I really enjoyed the week.”