Hannah triumphs in high-class finale
R&A: Sunday, August 15th
FORMAT: 36-hole strokeplay/ 5 rounds of matchplay
The final of the British Girls more than lived up to its billing as new champion Hannah Darling once again dazzled at Fulford.
Three years ago the Scottish player holed a 40-foot birdie to win the inaugural R&A Girls U-16s at the York course. Then Ireland’s Beth Coulter hit her final drive out of bounds when leading by two.
Yesterday the old rivalry was renewed and both internationals played their part in a high-class tussle. Cumulatively they posted 10 birdies and an eagle as the Scottish Curtis Cup pick once again sealed the deal to win by 2 holes.
It rounded off a remarkable run of scoring for the champion. In seven rounds of golf at Fulford, not including concessions, she racked up 30 birdies and two eagles.
“It’s amazing to win at Fulford again,” said the 18-year-old from Broomieknowe in her final girls event. “I honestly can’t believe it. I felt very nervous before I played today and I holed a really good putt on the first to settle me. I’ve putted well all week and knew I had to get off to a strong start.
“Against Beth, the story couldn’t be better. I really did think it might be her time today after three years ago but I’m obviously very grateful to win it. The names on the trophy are so good.”
The Scottish ace holed a 15 footer for par at the first and then found the bottom of the cup from eight feet on the next to go one up. It would be the first of six birdies on the day.
Both players birdied the par three third – the Irish player knocking it in from 18 feet and her opponent following her in from a yard less – and the par five fourth before Coulter hit a stunning approach to six feet at the fifth to register her third birdie in a row and get back level pegging.
The next three holes were halved with pars before Darling nudged ahead at the ninth thanks to a ‘regulation’ birdie on the par five.
The gap doubled on the 12th as the Kirkistown Castle player narrowly her missed her birdie chance while her playing partner did not miss from eight feet and the Irish ace must have been wondering if anyone could have stopped her opponent in this kind of form. At the next – a par five – Darling drilled her approach to three feet and was never going to waste that kind of eagle chance, taking herself to to seven under par for 13 holes.
However she did prove she was human with a bogey at the next and Coulter holed her five footer for par to cut to the gap to two and that became one at the 16th as she holed across the green from the best part of 30 feet.
Both players had problems on the penultimate hole and it was halved in bogeys before the Irish player found the trees on the left of the par five and could only get on in three while her opponent reached the fringe in two and lagged a superb 35-foot to inside a foot to secure the title.
Coulter added: “I actually said to Hannah in the locker room that those first six holes is probably the best golf I’ve ever played. We were all square and that shows how good Hannah is. I know we both made a bogey on the 17th, where I had a chance, but otherwise the quality of golf was really, really good.
“From the ninth to the 15th, there were some big match play moments, some swung Hannah’s way and some swung my way. Things could’ve been a bit different, but I was happy to at least get to one down going down the last. I was left off the 18th tee behind the trees, like I was three years ago in the Under-16s.”
Darling added: “On the last, I had about 240 yards for my second shot and I just felt I had to go for it and hit a good rescue club to the front edge which was one of the best shots I’ve hit all week. It was so nice to see spectators clapping and back out supporting golf.”
The champion qualified for the matchplay stages in second thanks to rounds of 72 and 70. Northumberland star Rachel Gourley (Arcot Hall)