Rollercoaster ride to ‘biggest victory’ for Rachel
SURREY: Saturday October 9th
FORMAT: 54-hole strokeplay
Rachel Gourley claimed her “biggest victory to date” last night but not before she put herself and supporters through the wringer as the Daily Telegraph/Justin Rose Junior Golf Championship reached an extraordinary conclusion at Walton Heath.
The England international from Arcot Hall was five clear playing the last but in the process of recording an eight, took three drops.
For a few horrific minutes it looked like she was in serious danger of “doing a Jean (van de Velde)” but somehow recovered her composure just when it mattered, holing from nine feet to finish one shot ahead of Surrey’s Lottie Woad.
Rachel went bogey, birdie, birdie, birdie, quadruple bogey for her last five holes while the runner-up added to drama by driving the green at the par four 12th and holing for eagle. Lottie then also birdied 14 while the leader bogeyed it. It meant over the space of the last seven holes the champion’s lead went from six shots, down to two, back up to five and then back down to one.
“I think, because of a mix of panic and adrenaline, I can’t remember much after I had to take a drop for the second time,” said the 17-year-old.
“It was a bit insane. But when I got to the green what really helped was I had held similar length putts at 15 and 17 and I was confident with the distance.
“I was also able to chat to Justin Rose before the event started and we talked about how he copes with pressure and I used that advice on 18.”
Rachel started the third round with a three-shot lead over her England team-mate and played the front nine in textbook fashion, birdieing all the par fives to double her advantage while Woking’s Alexandra Phelps was also making a charge. She recorded seven birdies yesterday on her way to a third placed finish (three back of winner).
In the group ahead, which also included Churchill and Blakedown’s Olivia Williams, the fun really began as Lottie drove the 291-yard 12th and sunk the putt from 18 feet.
Two holes later the gap was down to two but the Northumberland star reponded in brilliant fashion.
At 15 she fired a wedge to seven feet and rolled it in for a three before finding the putting surface in two at the par five 16th. She stuck her three wood to 50 feet and made the four.
At the penultimate hole the crowds were beginning to swell but she held her nerve to send an 8 iron to six feet and made no mistake, bagging her third birdie in a row.
With her lead back at five she drove off on 18 and tugged it left into a bush on top of a bunker. After taking an unplayable she hit her third into another bush on top of another bunker. Her fifth shot was thinned into more rubbish and this time she decided to hit a provisional. It proved an inspired move as she flushed her iron shot and left herself nine feet from the pin.
Walking to the green she then realised she needed to hole out to hang on to the lead she had held since day one and did just that to finish five under for the tournament.
On Thursday Rachel opened with a four-under-par 70 to share first-day honours with Wentworth’s Millie Cottrell. The undoubted highlight of her first round was draining an eagle putt on 16 from 40 feet.