After 19 seasons and 251 starts, Spain’s Carmen Alonso can finally call herself a Ladies European Tour (LET) champion after clinching a dramatic maiden victory at the Ladies Open by Pickala Rock Resort.
In an epic dual with Johanna Gustavsson on the final day in Finland, Alonso fired a 68 (-4) to pip the Swede by one shot and seal her first title on 15-under-par.
“I’m really really really happy!” Alonso said. “You don’t know how much. This is my 19th year on the Tour and I never won before. I don’t have words to say!”
One behind Gustavsson before the start of play, and with round three delayed for two hours due to an electrical storm, Alonso’s task got greater on the opening hole when Gustavsson rolled in a birdie to extend her lead to two.
A couple of holes later and we had a match-play situation on our hands with Alonso birdying the par-3 3rd and Gustavsson conceding a bogey to produce a two-shot swing.
After the pair both posted red numbers on the 8th, the Spaniard birdied the next hole to take the outright lead for the first time before Gustavsson levelled the standings with a birdie on the 12th.
Onto the closing stretch, and Alonso bogeyed the 15th to hand the Swede a one-shot advantage heading into ‘death valley’ – the appropriately named tight finish at Pickala Rock Resort.
The 38-year-old said: “When I was on the 16th tee, I said to my caddie Maria [Beautell], ‘hey, three birdies, three birdies and we will win.’”
After the pair both birdied the 16th, the brutally narrow par-4 17th then proved to be the turning point as Alonso carded another birdie only for Gustavsson to make a decisive bogey.
One hole later, and a clutch up-and-down ensured Alonso was finally an LET champion with her opponent unable to convert a long birdie putt on the par-4 18th.
Alonso continued: “Obviously we only made two [birdies in the last three holes], but the 18th was a little bit unlucky because it wasn’t a bad shot from the tee but I had the tree in my line. I hit a bad shot but the short game was the best. Great.”
With the victory, Alonso now joins the LET winners’ circle after 251 appearances – the most amount of starts before a victory in the circuit’s history.
“When I put the last putt in the hole I said to my caddie I never thought this would happen.
“It means more for my coaches. For the people that have worked closely with me for all these years. They always encouraged me to continue and to do what I like to do. This is for all of them more than for me!”
Soaring up the leaderboard on day three to finish T3 were Northern Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey and defending champion Anne-Charlotte Mora – the pair both firing superb 68s (-4) to end the week on nine-under-par.
“I putted very nicely and didn’t hit any shots that put me in a lot of trouble today,” Mehaffey said. “I’m really proud of the work I’ve done and the fact that my team have stuck by me.”
One shot back in a tie for fifth were France’s Anne-Lise Caudal, England’s Annabel Dimmock, Finland’s Linda Osala, and Austria’s Christine Wolf.
Rounding off the top-10 in T9 on seven-under-par finished home favourite Noora Kumulainen, Sweden’s Anna Magnusson, Germany’s Sophie Witt, and England’s Meghan MacLaren.
Finland’s Katri Bakker – the sister of retired LET player Krista – ended the week as the best low amateur on level-par.
With her win – worth 500 points – Alonso climbs to ninth in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol and qualifies for this month’s Evian Championship. Spain’s Ana Peláez Trivino still leads the standings on 1,338.20 points.
After the Spaniard’s emotional victory in Finland, there is now a one week break on the LET before our stars head to London for the next Aramco Team Series event at Centurion Golf Club.