Fleming and Leu claim Student Tour Series success in Portugal
03 Feb 24
University College Dublin’s Emma Fleming and William Leu of Halmstad University stood proud at Pinhal Golf Club in Vilamoura, Portugal to win the third event of the R&A Student Tour Series (STS) 2023/24 season. It was the case of another STS event, another pair of first time winners. The first three tournaments have produced debut winners in the men’s and women’s tournaments, proof of the Student Tour Series’ strength in depth. Italy’s Miguel Orzi of University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and Maynooth University’s Kate Lanigan earned their first wins in Italy in the last STS event, while Maynooth player Eoin Murphy and Halmstad’s Elice Fredriksson earned their debut wins in the season opener in Spain. Fleming didn’t just win her first STS event: she won in her first start. Leu finally got his hands on an STS trophy after five top-ten’s, including runner-up in France during the 2022/23 series. A testing wind made the tight, tricky Pinhal course all the tougher. Hitting arguably the smallest putting surfaces of any course on Continental Europe wasn’t easy, especially with the breeze drying out the slick surfaces.
A model of consistency
Fleming was a model of consistency over the three days. She set out on the final round hoping to shoot an under par score after rounds of 72 and 73. Given the conditions, her second straight 73 was probably close to the actual par for the day. Fleming began with a share of the lead on one-over with seasoned STS campaigner Lorna McClymont, winner of the last two Order of Merits and with five STS wins. Lanigan was the other member of the trio. McClymont struggled to a seven-over 79 and fourth place, while Lanigan shot 75 to finish joint second with Fredriksson, who returned a 74. Fleming, meanwhile, plotted her way to four-shot victory. She ended up on two-over-par 218.
“It obviously feels really good to win, especially in my first one,” said Fleming. “I was just happy to be here playing. “Kate and Lorna are both unreal players and I was just trying to keep up with them half the time. So even to just watch them today was an experience.” Fleming, who is studying economics and finance, could have played college golf in the United States of America but chose UCD based on academics, not golf. “I really love my course. It’s quite intense and I’m learning a lot,” she added. American college golf’s loss is the Student Tour Series’ gain. The Irish internationalist now has a chance to win the Order of Merit at St Andrews, the final event of the season. She said, “I’ve never played the Old Course, so that would be a huge thrill.”
Due a victory
Thrilling was one way of describing Leu’s win. He spoke after the first two rounds of feeling as if he was due a victory. The sports science student finally delivered with a closing four-over-par 76 for a three-under 213 total. It was good enough for a one-shot win over two-time STS winner Ryan Griffin. The Maynooth student shot a four-under 68, the low round of the day. Leu bogeyed the 18th when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker, but it didn’t matter – he’d finally earned his due and won an STS tournament. “I didn’t make it easy on myself, but I got it done,” Leu said. “It’s my first time being in the lead so it was a new experience for me. I learned a lot, and hopefully I can take that to Paris, and then to Scotland for the final. “I think I learned today not focus on what anyone else is doing, and concentrate on my game. It’s a cliché maybe but I felt like I just needed to be clear on what I was trying to do. I did that in the middle of the round, but maybe not at the beginning and the end.”
Proud of triumph
That much was obvious when he began with bogeys at the 1st and 3rd holes, both par-5s. His two-shot lead to start the day had suddenly disappeared. He rallied with two birdies in his next four holes but dropped shots at the 12th, 17th and 18th to feel stressed coming towards the clubhouse. He added, “I’m proud that I got the job done because I was just trying to survive down the 18th. I got over the line and I’ll probably learn more from that than if I’d won by a big margin.” Like Fleming, Leu is another who has a chance to win the Order of Merit. Roll on Le Golf National and the STS – France next month, the penultimate event of the 2023/24 season before the Final over the Old Course in April. View final scores