Sunday afternoon at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters was everything that a Sunday afternoon back nine should be, including a pair of swans drifting gracefully on one of the Buckinghamshire water hazards. With Sophie Gustafson — a champion many times over on both the LET and LPGA — on her bag, American Beth Allen withstood charges by Leona Maguire, Nontaya Srisawang, Nicole Larsen and Caroline Masson to claim her first LET victory Sunday at the Buckinghamshire. Dame Laura Davies added a bit of spice to the day with an ace on the par-3 7th. All told, it was quite a day of golf at the Buckinghamshire!
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The final round at the Ladies European Masters began with Caroline Masson holding a two stroke lead over the field and Allen trailing by five shots. But Masson couldn’t hold her lead.
San Diegan Allen came charging up the leaderboard with five birdies on the front nine and a 5th on the 14th before giving back a shot on the 15th and settling into a 12-under par clubhouse lead to wait things out.
Beth Allen couldn’t have asked for a better looper than Sophie Gustafson — herself an 8-time member of Europe’s Solheim Cup teams and one of Carin Koch’s vice-captains this year — to support her victory charge that’s been 11 years in the making. A bit discouraged with the state of her own game, Gustafson told Golf Digest she’s taking a break from competition but not from golf. This week Allen was the beneficiary.
"“Honestly, I feel like I just showed up and I didn’t have a lot of expectations because I finished second here in 2012 and haven’t made a cut since,” said Allen. “I thought, well, I’ll do my best and enjoy it and today. I got off to a really good start and thought maybe this can happen and Sophie kept me grounded. I ended up getting it done, so I’m really happy!”"
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Leona Maguire, with her dad on the bag, played with steely resolve and a laser-like focus. The world’s top amateur, wearing her Duke golf cap, seemed never to waver as she plowed her way through the Buckinghamshire track, eventually drawing even with Allen’s 12-under par on the 17th, only to give back the playoff stroke on the 18th.
Maguire took the setback like a pro.
"“I knew it was tight coming up 18 and we didn’t really know where the wind was coming from. I thought it was downwind, dad thought it was into the wind and it was probably the wrong club off the tee but I’m very proud of the way I played all day. Going out at the start of the day I would have taken that so it’s been a great day.”"
Dame Laura finished the Ladies European Masters at 8-under par, alongside Trish Johnson, Anne-Lise Caudel and Noora Tamminen.
Commenting on her week, Dame Laura observed, “It’s more Solheim Cup points, which is what I wanted, to show Carin I’m still playing well and could be an asset to the team.”
The LET is off now until the end of July and the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open, which will be contested at Dundonald Links – Troon, July 24-26. Lydia Ko has confirmed for the competition.