|Henderson Rookie Caroline Hedwall stormed through the field with a 64|
Henderson Rookie Caroline Hedwall landed her third Ladies European Tour title as she came from seven strokes behind overnight leader Kaisa Ruuttila to triumph at the UNIQA Ladies Open presented by Raiffiesen in Austria.
The 22-year-old from Barsebäck in Sweden opened with a 73 to trail by six shots going into the weekend and added a 67 on Saturday.
The Henderson Money List number two fired a closing round of eight under 64 to end 12 under, which no-one bettered on a hot and breezy final day at Golfclub Föhrenwald, 40 minutes from Vienna.
Afonso, who trailed by a stroke overnight, signed for a 74 for her second runner-up finish, while Ruuttila had a 76 and finished seven under for the week alongside Melissa Reid, Giulia Sergas and the 2009 champion Linda Wessberg in joint third.
After winning the LET’s Final Qualifying School in December, Hedwall won the New South Wales Open on the Australian Tour on her professional debut in January.
With wins in Slovakia and Finland in May and June respectively, she now has three LET titles from 15 starts and is the first player to win three LET tournaments as a rookie since Trish Johnson in 1987.
“It’s been an unbelievable year. I just try to enjoy myself and have a good time: that’s what I do. I try to have fun and it works,” said Hedwall, who was recently selected by Captain Alison Nicholas to represent Europe at The Solheim Cup, taking place in Ireland in a fortnight.
“I did play very solid yesterday and I did leave a lot of shots out there. I missed two really short putts, so it felt like it should have been eight under yesterday. I felt like, if I can keep playing this solid I might have a low round coming. It was just nice that I could pull it off.
“I made a lot of bad mistakes my first day and I wasn’t happy at all. They were mistakes that I don’t usually do. I still felt like my game was pretty good and it didn’t feel like I shot one over even though my score showed that.”
Ruuttila had established a four stroke lead after six holes, but dropped back to nine under with a bogey at the seventh followed by a double on the ninth hole.
Hedwall carded a trio of birdies on the front nine at the second, fourth and eighth holes. Another birdie at the 11th, followed by an eagle at the par-four 12th, where she reached the green and holed a 15-foot putt, meant that she had tied for the lead with Afonso and Sergas and she then inched ahead with tap-in a birdie at the long 15th.
Nerves seemed to show at the par-three 16th when she hit an iron shot over the green and duffed a chip shot, but she holed a 15-footer for bogey to stay ahead.
“I hit a bad chip and holed the putt, so I felt like it was a sign that I would finish strong,” said Hedwall, who proceeded to hole from five and four feet for birdies on the two closing holes respectively, effectively sealing the victory and first prize of €30,000.
“I just enjoyed the moment and didn’t really think about it. I just know that I can make birdies and I did,” she said.
Hedwall pulled her own trolley for the first two rounds, but thanked 17-year-old amateur Nadine Dreher, who is a member of the Austrian national team, for acting as her caddie on the final day.
Hedwall will now head home for a week off before playing at the Open de Espana Femenino and then The Solheim Cup, when her twin sister Jacqueline will be on the bag again.