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Ashleigh Simon secures second professional victory

South African Ashleigh Simon claimed the ISPS Handa Portugal Ladies Open by three shots after carding a brilliant five under par 67 in windy conditions at CampoReal Resort and Spa near Lisbon on Sunday.

The Johannesburg 22-year-old dislodged veteran Gwladys Nocera atop the leader board with eight birdies and three bogeys on a warm final day in the municipality of Torres Vedras.

Simon took command after she went to the turn in three-under 33, to move four ahead of overnight leader Nocera. She carded two bogeys and four birdies coming home for a back nine total of two under 34 to finish on 16 under par overall.

It was her second victory on the Iberian Peninsula, her only other victory coming at the 2007 Catalonia Ladies Masters in Spain, shortly after turning professional at the age of 18 almost exactly four years ago. Her best finish this season had been a tie for seventh at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

“It’s a huge honour to win any Ladies European Tour event. I think that the climate is so close to South Africa so I felt comfortable here the whole week. It’s been an absolutely great week,” said Simon. “I played really good the whole week and didn’t let my head get away. I didn’t know what score I was on so I was very focused: 66, 67, 67, so very consistent.

“It’s been four years since my last win and this one feels very special because I’ve been working for a long time. It shows that all the work is starting to pay off now and I hope it can continue.”

She thanked her boyfriend and caddie David Buhai, her coach of one year Douglas Wood and her fitness trainer Garth Milne for their part in her victory.  

Runner-up Nocera, who began the day with a one stroke advantage, had a nightmare start to the final round and was out in 38 with four bogeys and an eagle on the front nine. She recovered well with birdies on each of the closing three holes for a one under par 71 after the strong winds of the morning had calmed down.  

Nocera said: “I started off not really good; it was really windy and I put a ball in the water with the second shot on number one; I took a bogey on number two. I put another ball in the water on eight, so that was way too many mistakes and I didn’t make a single putt so I gave away so many things and Ashleigh played really well. I’m happy to finish second but if I want to win I have to not make mistakes.”

The recent Turkish Airlines Ladies Open winner Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands finished third on nine under par after a final round of 72.

Italian Diana Luna, who shot 73, finished tied fourth with Frenchwoman Virginie Lagoutte-Clement, who posted 74. South African Stacy Lee Bregman and England’s Georgina Simpson were a shot further back in joint sixth, with English rookie Rachel Jennings a shot further back in eighth place.

The Ladies European Tour now moves to Munich in Germany, for the UniCredit Ladies German Open, presented by Audi, from May 19-22.

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