Australian Rebecca Artis came from five strokes behind overnight leader Caroline Hedwall to secure her first Ladies European Tour victory at the Helsingborg Open in Sweden.
The 24-year-old from Coonabarabran in New South Wales fired rounds of 69, 71, 71 and 69 to post a winning total of 280, eight-under-par, ending a stroke ahead of Hedwall after a warm and windy week at Vasatorps Golf Club.
“It was a great day out there. I played solid golf all day and to walk away with a win is unbelievable,” said Artis, who had husband Geoff on the bag. “I just had to go out there and play steady early and see if I could make a couple of birdies early on.”
When asked if she was surprised to win, especially in such a high quality field against three of the world’s top 25 players, Artis continued: “I’d like to say I’m not surprised. It’s a lot of hard work that goes into winning a golf tournament and I’m absolutely delighted.
“When I came here, I said to my husband that I thought it was a great golf course. I’d heard it could get windy around here and I thought if it got windy and I was hitting the ball as well as I had been doing I could definitely give it a chance.
“We get wind in Australia, it depends where you are, but I like playing in the wind, I enjoy tough conditions and go out there and grind it out.
“I knew that I had to go out there and make some birdies early on and put some pressure on the leaders. I put myself into contention going into the back nine and knew that if the conditions were like they were the first three days and windy, that anything could happen out there. It’s not an easy golf course when the wind’s up like that, so I just knew that if I could get off to a good start and post some birdies I could be right in it down the stretch.”
The win capped a tremendous six weeks for Artis, during which time she had earned two top ten finishes, although it could have been three. Only four weeks earlier, she was lying in sixth place going into the final round of the Pilsen Golf Masters when forced to pull out with a back injury.
“My back went on me on the golf course during the second round and I pulled out before the final round because I just didn’t feel fit enough to go out there. I’ve had previous back injuries so I didn’t want to force it. I didn’t want to be in the same position again,” Artis explained.
“I’ve had some great weeks out here, great results, and I’ve been playing really well the last three or four tournaments so I felt pretty confident coming in this week with the way my golf was. My coach, Luke Edwin, I brought him over from Australia in Spain and it’s paid off.”
Artis earned a €37,500 first prize cheque and punched her ticket to next week’s Evian Championship in France, the final major of the year.
|Rebecca Artis with husband Geoff
Although she began the final round slowly with a bogey on the fifth hole, Artis stormed up the leader board with four birdies in five holes from the seventh. She tied for the lead with Hedwall after 10 holes and moved two clear after 11.
Hedwall’s challenge stalled with a double bogey on the fifth, followed by bogeys on 10 and 11 and she was unable to recover. After Artis holed a putt of seven feet for birdie on 17, she moved three ahead with a hole to play and although Hedwall also birdied 17, it was too little too late.
After hitting a fantastic approach shot to just 12 feet below the hole on 18, Artis three-putted, opening the door for Hedwall, but the Swedish Solheim Cup star could only make par, ending in second place.
|Runner-up Caroline Hedwall
“This is not how I wanted it to end but I’m very happy for Rebecca,” Hedwall said. “She played awesome today and it just wasn’t meant to be this time.
“Obviously it was my putting. I didn’t make anything. I was playing solid golf tee to green and I made a birdie at the end but that wasn’t enough.”
Two strokes further behind in solo third place, Frenchwoman Valentine Derrey earned her career best finish in three years on the LET, while Order of Merit leader, South African Lee-Anne Pace, was two strokes further back in outright fourth.
England’s Laura Davies showed some vintage form as she earned a season-best finish of fifth at two-under-par. Davies fired seven birdies and four birdies in a three-under 69 and said: “I played well, putted well, got a bit unlucky on a couple of holes. A couple of three putts from long range but overall played really well.
“I hit a couple of really good drivers into the wind and gave myself a good chance to get within 50, 60 yards of the par fives. I think it was because of how I drove it, but also I putted well. I love the course and the tournament; I think they’ve done a great job. Condition wise it’s magnificent. It’s the best result of the year so I have to be pleased with it.”
Swedish 16-year-old Linnea Strom, a member of the recent European PING Junior Solheim Cup Team in Colorado, was the leading amateur in equal 38th place. At the other end of the experience spectrum, Helen Alfredsson announced that this would be her final tournament in Sweden as she is stepping away from her competitive career, although she is still in the field for next week’s Evian Championship, where she has won three times.