Reigning R&A Girls’ Amateur champion Pia Babnik has illustrated her impressive talent after securing a card at the final stage of Ladies’ European Tour (LET) Qualifying School.
The 16-year-old Slovenian was the youngest in the field at the La Manga Club in Spain yet finished inside the top 20 to secure her playing rights on the professional circuit for 2020.
Babnik, who plays off a +7 handicap and is ranked sixth on the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, continued her rapid rise in the sport.
Last April, she won the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, then went on to enjoy more success in Scotland when she produced a commanding display to defeat Isabella Holpfer and win the centenary R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship at Panmure in August. Babnik played impressively in blustery conditions throughout the 18-hole Final to defeat Austria’s Holpfer and then competed in last year’s PING Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles.
Babnik, who also made her first start on the LET in the Tipsport Czech Ladies Open in August, was among 15 players at Qualifying School to secure Category 8a status for 2020.
“Now I am one of (the) rookies on the Ladies’ European Tour,” Babnik tweeted. Earlier in the week, she said, “I hope to play professional tournaments and be the best.”
Former Curtis Cup player Alice Hewson also secured her playing rights for the year ahead after a top-five performance.
Hewson, from Hertfordshire in England, took the final spot in Category 5c by finishing in fifth place on five-under-par. The 22-year-old, who turned professional last September, was a member of the 2016 and 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup teams, the 2015 and 2017 GB&I Vagliano Trophy teams, and became the first Englishwoman to play competitively at Augusta National in last year’s inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur Championship.
After a closing 69, she said, “It was really good out there. I got off to a really solid start and finally started holing some putts in the middle of the round. I had a couple of interesting holes coming in but I stuck to my game plan the whole time and was aggressive.
“It’s really special to get my full card, especially this year, with how many events the Ladies European Tour has got this year. It’s going to be a great opportunity and I’m excited to get travelling.”
It was Amy Boulden who topped qualifying overall, winning by three strokes from Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher and Alison Muirhead from Scotland. The Welsh player, the 2014 LET Rookie of the Year, closed the final stage with a round of five-under-par 68 on the South Course for a 90-hole total of 10-under-par.
South Africa’s Monique Smit secured the 20th card with a birdie four on the second extra hole after a four-way play-off on the 18th against Manon Gidali from France, former R&A Women’s Amateur champion Leonie Harm from Germany and Mireia Prat from Spain.
The new-look Ladies’ European Tour season, boosted with new tournaments and increased prize money, gets underway on 20 February with the Australian Ladies Classic Bonville in New South Wales.