|Ann-Kathrin Lindner celebrates her victory on the 18th green
German rookie Ann-Kathrin Lindner claimed her first victory in only her eighth start on the Ladies European Tour as she came from two strokes behind overnight leader Anaïs Maggetti to claim the Honma Pilsen Golf Masters.
The 25-year-old from Hannover had three birdies in a final round 69 at Golf Park Plzn in the Czech Republic to set the target at 12-under-par.
Lindner jumped into her caddie’s arms in jubilation after making a short par putt on 18, knowing that only two players could catch her with an eagle.
After Maria Baliokeva and Jade Schaeffer both missed their chances, Lindner could celebrate her victory in the company of friends from St. Leon-Rot, host venue to The 2015 Solheim Cup, who drenched her in water as she left the recording area.
“I didn’t expect anything,” said Lindner, who earned 37,500 euro and moved to 18th place on the LET ISPS HANDA Order of Merit. “It was my dream to turn pro and play here. I really enjoy playing on the Ladies European Tour. It’s such great fun for me and everybody is so nice to me; I’m enjoying it.”
She ended one shot clear of Italian Diana Luna and Frenchwoman Alexandra Vilatte, who fired a career-low round 63 to record her best ever finish in two years on Tour. Russia’s Maria Baliokeva - also earned a career best finish of equal fourth alongside Katie Burnett of the United States, who shot an impressive final round of 64 to climb from 34th place overnight.
Parisienne Vilatte, 30, said: “It was an amazing day. I shot eight-under and that was my best score ever. I had great putting. I missed a few small putts but I don’t care! I know that now I have my card safe so I’m very happy.”
Five time LET champion Luna had to console herself with the eighth second place finish of her 12 years on tour. The 30-year-old from Rome said: “I’m very happy about my week. I’ve been finding it very hard, especially on the back nine. I wasn’t playing well in the beginning and I kept fighting and I had a very nice back nine so I’m very glad. I’ve been injured in the beginning of the year and spent a few months trying to get better. I’ve been struggling to get back into contention so I’m very happy to be back.”
In her post round interview, Lindner revealed that she had learned from the experience of playing alongside eventual champion Karrie Webb and Christina Kim in the final round of the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England a fortnight ago, where she had opened with rounds of 66 and 69 but finished with a disappointing 80 to slip into a share of 41st position.
“Two weeks ago I was in the same situation and I played with Webbie and Christina Kim and I think it was a bit too early to play with those players and I learned a lot. I learned to be by myself, play my game and play shot by shot and I think that’s the key,” Lindner said. She also took words of encouragement from Christina Kim. “She wrote to me on Twitter and that was awesome. She said, I have many abilities and I can do this! So maybe her words were the key for me to be self confident on the course,” she said.
Lindner is the third rookie to win on the Ladies European Tour this season, after Ariya Jutanugarn in Morocco and Holly Clyburn in Holland and this is a major boost for golf in Germany as the country prepares to host The 2015 Solheim Cup. Lindner worked in the office at St. Leon-Rot for two-and-a-half years whilst on the German national team and practised there in the evenings. She hopes to qualify for The Solheim Cup when the event is played at her home club.
Next week, she will be watching closely as Europe’s women attempt to defend The Cup at Colorado Golf Club and win for the first time in the United States.