Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands outlasted local favorite, Yuting Shi, in an enthralling final round duel to earn her first Ladies European Tour title at the Xiamen International Ladies Open in China.
Van Dam, finished 17 under par after firing rounds of 70, 66, 67 and 68, capturing the championship by a single stroke.
The pair started the final round, played in hot and humid conditions, tied for the lead on 13-under-par before Van Dam took control with a birdie on the second hole.
The tall and long-hitting Dutchwoman went two strokes ahead with an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole, but there was a two shot swing at the sixth, which Van Dam bogeyed and Shi birdied, before the diminutive Shi took the lead with a birdie on the seventh hole.
The 18-year-old Shi, from Beijing, then bogeyed the 10th, but quickly recovered with a birdie at the 11th. Van Dam missed a great opportunity on the 14th but levelled the scores when she made a 40cm birdie putt on the par-4 16th hole. Drama ensued at the 17th when Van Dam drove left onto the 18th fairway, but she hit an excellent recovery shot and matched Shi with a birdie.
The pair remained tied coming to the 18th tee, but Shi’s drive hit a tree and bounced back 30 yards down the fairway, meaning that she could not reach the green in regulation and took a pitch and two putts for bogey. Van Dam was able to make two putts from the back of the green for par to seal the victory, worth €45,000, in the event which was almost cancelled three weeks earlier due to a huge typhoon.
The players donated 10 per cent of their earnings to local relief efforts and the greenkeepers worked overtime to ensure that the course was in championship condition. For Van Dam, it could not have been any better and she said: “It’s a big boost. I mean, it’s my second year on tour and so far I didn’t reach my potential at all, so it’s pretty sweet to get this win.”
She added: “I’m just glad I stayed so patient out there today. On the sixth hole I made a bogey and from there I just made pars all the way in. I hit really good shots but my putting was not there yet. I said to myself, stay patient, because you never know what can happen. I mean, 16, 17, were absolutely crazy. On 16, I had a perfect distance for my gap wedge. I just looked at the pin and wanted to hole that shot. From the first hole, I pretty much just tried to hole every approach shot into the green.”
When asked if she felt nervous, she replied: “I have to say, today was pretty good. It was just the last putt: you could feel everything going nuts. It was so short, it was just straight back and straight through and in the hole.”
“Back in April when we trained again for a half day, I had no doubt Anne was ready to play to her potential,” said Brad Brewer.
Prior to this breakthrough win, Anne won twice on the LET Access Series in Finland and Belguim, and, finished 12th twice on the Ladies European Tour.