By Matt Smith
The Arab world has a new star as Ines Laklalech claimed her first crown on the Ladies European Tour.
The 24-year-old made history at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France in Deauville as she defeated Meghan MacLaren in a layoff at Golf Barrière.
Laklalech started the last day with a one-stroke lead but MacLaren had taken the advantage after five holes in the final round. The Englishwoman held a two-stroke lead with four holes to play but Laklalech birdied the long 16th and then MacLaren bogeyed the short 17th, meaning that the pair were tied coming to the par-4 18th hole.
After taking regulation pars and tying on 14-under-par 199, the pair returned to the 18th tee for a play-off, but this time, MacLaren put her drive into the long rough on the left of the fairway and couldn’t get her ball out at the first attempt. She had to take a penalty drop and played her fourth shot onto the green, whereas Laklalech reached the front of the green in two blows.
After MacLaren made a six, Laklalech won with a five and was able to celebrate becoming the first Arab woman to claim an LET title with her husband, Ali, who is also her caddie.
“It feels amazing,” said a tearful Laklalech. “It’s special to hear it. I don’t have any words to describe this.
“I’m surprised because the last time I was in contention was in Sweden at the Skaftö Open and I lost it over the last few holes. I was just too tense physically and I was very, very surprised with the way I felt physically today. I didn’t control anything. I felt sure that the past experience in Sweden would help me today and it did. I just played my game, played quite well and I’m just so happy.
“Of course going to the tee box in the playoff I felt very nervous but I hit a good shot and it was unfortunate how it ended, because Meghan didn’t have a good lie, but I feel like this is a two-in-one. I experienced a play-off and a victory at the same time. This is definitely something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Laklalech is a big fan of Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur and she hopes that her victory will inspire more Arabic girls to follow their dreams to play on Tour. “Morocco is doing a great job in promoting golf and I think having a Moroccan winning on a major tour will be huge for the country and for the Arab world in general,” she said.
Following her victory, Laklalech climbed 38 places to 14th on the Race to Costa del Sol and MacLaren moved up three spots to sixth.
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