|Bondad begins her final round at Yalong Bay Golf Club
Australian Frances Bondad came from two strokes behind overnight leader Pan Yan Hong to lift her maiden trophy as a professional at the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan, China.
The 23-year-old from Greystanes in New South Wales birdied the final hole at Yalong Bay Golf Club to edge one stroke clear of Scotland’s Vikki Laing, who closed with a bogey after getting caught in the bunker.
Bondad fired rounds of 68, 70 and a bogey-free final round of 67 to earn a one stroke victory at 205, 11 under par for the tournament, securing a first prize cheque for €30,000 and a three year exemption to the Ladies European Tour.
“It feels unreal,” said Bondad, grinning ear to ear after her friends on tour soaked her with bottles of water. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”
Bondad began the hot and humid final round with eight steady pars but picked up momentum when she holed a 35 foot putt for an eagle three on the ninth green.
With her sights set firmly on the title, she holed a 15 footer for birdie at the par-four 12th then struck an arrow-straight three-wood to the front of the 13th green from 180 metres and two putted for birdie to tie for the lead with Laing on 10 under par.
Laing moved a stroke ahead when she sank a long birdie putt at the 14th and held a one stroke lead standing on the 18th tee.
But Laing hit her second shot into the front greenside trap at the last and had a tricky stance above the plugged ball. She failed to exit the bunker at the first attempt and holed a gutsy 12 footer to drop just one stroke.
Bondad knew what she had to do and she broke into a wide smile as she rolled in her putt from eight feet for the victory.
“I was hitting it close and I just wasn’t making any putts and when that eagle putt went in at the ninth, that kept me going, and made me think, ‘I can get up there,’ she said.
“On 12 I made a really good birdie putt from 15 foot. Then on 13, I had 205 metres to the pin and 186 to the front and I just went straight over the water.”
Bondad, whose previous best finish in four seasons on the Ladies European Tour was a tie for second at the 2010 Open de Espana Femenino, said that a course of hypnotherapy had been instrumental to her victory.
Ranked 65th on the LET’s Henderson Money List, she felt she was struggling and recently went in search of something different to turn her game around.
“I got hypnotised two weeks ago and he spoke to my subconscious mind and got rid of my bad past. I’ve just been taking this herbal medicine and found out a few things about myself. I’ve sorted that out and it’s unbelievable the way it’s changed me.
“I’ve had a really poor season so I was just thinking to myself, ‘I need to find some help,’ so I saw this guy. Every session, I find new things about myself, so it’s been really good,” she said.
Laing was understandably disappointed with her result, which was her third runner-up spot inside two seasons on the LET, but she was pleased with her final round of 68.
“I’m really happy with my round. I’d have taken four under, standing on the first tee, so other than that, I played pretty well today,” said the 30-year-old from Musselburgh. “I just missed it a little bit right on 18 and got unlucky with the bunker: it plugged and was up against the face.
“I was nervous all day, pretty much. I knew that I was leading coming down the stretch. I was just trying to stick to my game and for the most part, I’m pretty happy with it.
“I finished fifth here last year as well so I enjoy this golf course. It’s nice to be in contention coming down the stretch and hopefully I’ll keep having more opportunities.”
South African Ashleigh Simon fired a 69 and ended in a share of third with the long-hitting overnight leader Pan of China, who shot 72.
Her countrywoman Lin Xiyu improved on her share of ninth place in 2010 to end in a tie for fifth at six under with Finland’s Minea Blomqvist, Australian Stacey Keating and Thailand’s Patcharajutar Kongkraphan.
China will be watching Lin as the 15-year-old professional improves in the lead up to The 2016 Olympic Games and she looks an exciting prospect for women’s golf.
She and the other players will now head to mainland China for the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open near Shanghai, where world number one Yani Tseng will form part of another strong field.