Karen Lunn claimed her tenth Ladies European Tour title at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco on Sunday after a tight final round battle at Golf de l’Ocean in Agadir.
The 46-year-old Australian came from a stroke back going into the final round to finish three clear of Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord and South African Tandi Cuningham.
Lunn posted a final round of five under 66 in fine conditions to end 12 under after four rounds. The title was wide open until Lunn launched herself into action on the more difficult back nine, where she picked up five birdies including three in a row from the 10th hole.
“We got to the turn and I think there were seven or eight players within two shots of the lead so it was game on for anyone,” said Lunn. “I just managed to play the back nine really well and made some putts and that’s what you have to do. I haven’t been making the putts but this week I did and managed to sneak over the line.”
The 1993 Women’s British Open champion holed a monster 50-footer on the par 3 12th hole to get to 10 under for the tournament, just as co-leader Jade Schaeffer dropped two shots by hitting her tee shot into the rocks short of the green.
Skarpnord joined Lunn in pole position by making a five-footer for birdie on the 13th, but bogeyed the 15th, while Lunn edged two ahead by sinking a 35-footer from across the green.
Lunn moved three ahead of the field after making another birdie from eight feet at the par-three 16th and at that point, she knew the title was hers to lose but showed her class by making par on each of the closing two holes.
“It’s very nerve wracking. No matter how many times you win every one is very difficult,” said Lunn, who won the Royal Canberra Ladies Classic on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour in January. “I never actually got nervous today until I got in front after 15. It was kind of, it’s mine to win or lose now: that gave me a two shot cushion. That actually puts the pressure back on you; all day to be in contention or thereabouts and I was like, it’s up to me now.”
In addition to the 48,750 euro first prize cheque, Lunn was presented with an ornate silver jewel-encrusted clutch purse by HRH Prince Moulay Rachid at the joint prize giving for the Lalla Meryem Cup and Trophée Hassan II.
She described the purse as, ‘absolutely beautiful,’ but was equally delighted to have effectively earned a place at this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open and Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale.
“This means I hopefully get to play in the Evian Masters and British Open, so it changes everything,” she said. “It takes the pressure off early in the year. Obviously then you re-assess your goals. To win was a goal and I’ve done that a couple of times this year so hopefully re-assess and play well in the bigger events at the end of the year. This is a great event and I’m thrilled to be here.”
For Cuningham, her tie for second equalled her career best finish at the 2010 Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open.
The 25-year-old from Johannesburg fired a final round of 67 and was delighted. “I came out here with the mindset this week that I want a top five. I want to give myself a good chance to have a good start to the year and just keep that process day in, day out. It got me to today so I’ll keep doing it,” she said.
Her shot of the day was a chip-in from a tricky position on the 12th hole. “I had 169 to the flag, breeze coming in off the right, so for me it was a gripped down two-iron that I actually just smothered a bit,” she explained. “I pulled it a little bit left and the flag is tight left so I had a monstrous chip on a down slope with no green to work with that I had to land short, kind of scuttle it down there and I was hoping to have a ten-footer at best return for par and I knocked it in, so fantastic: I was happy with that.”
Australian European Tour player Richard Green was on hand cheering on Skarpnord as she contended for her first title since 2009, but despite pushing Lunn all the way, in the end she fell just short.
“I didn’t make a lot of putts and Karen made putts from everywhere on the back nine, so I couldn’t do anything, to be honest with you. I just had to play my game and try and do my best,” Skarpnord explained. “I have to say that I felt like a proper loser when I walked off the 18th green but of course I’m happy with second place and I would have taken it on Monday.”
The Ladies European Tour’s next event will be the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open presented by EventScotland at Archerfield Links from May 3-5.