Meghan MacLaren continued her love affair with Australia, winning the Australian Women’s Classic at Bonville on Sunday, but only after Gold Coast teenager Sarah Hammett sent Ladies European Tour officials diving for the record books.
Fifteen-year-old Hammett, playing in the second-last group, had led at eight-under after walking off the par-5 14th with a birdie and threatening to emulate Steph Kyriacou, who won the last staging of the event as an amateur in 2020.
But it was English professional MacLaren who steadied after two front-side bogeys to win the rain-shortened 54-hole event. She had led at the end of each of the first two rounds and was able to finish best with her three-under 69 highlighted by three birdies in the last five holes.
I knew someone had got to eight-under, and I was on seven at that point, MacLaren said of her thoughts on the 14th tee.
I made a good birdie on 14 and 15, and I assumed the lead might be nine at that point.
When I realised it wasn’t, I knew I was the leader by one and I just assumed they would make birdie on 18, so I needed to do that was well.
I kind of knew it was in my hands.
MacLaren won the 2018 and 2019 NSW Opens at Coffs Harbour and Queanbeyan, when it was an LET event, while Hammett was playing her first professional tournament.
Hammett had only one bogey in her first 52 holes, but felt the pressure in the closing stages.
It was unreal with all the people watching. I have never experienced that before, she said. I’ve felt nothing close to that in life.
The last two holes, I was really feeling the nerves and finishing bogey-bogey was disappointing, but, still, I had a great week.
Hammett shot a 69, even bogeying the final holes to finish equal sixth with fellow Queenslander amateur Justice Bosio. It continued her breakout year after winning the NSW Amateur at Links Shell Cove in January and has her marked as player to watch for the next decade.
The leaderboard had been tight all afternoon with eight players within a shot of the lead at some stages and Sweden’s Maja Stark, playing alongside Hammett, posted nine-under par.
It left MacLaren needing to birdie the last, as she had expected, to win.
She found the centre of the fairway and fired a hybrid from 200 metres to reach the par-5 in two, but faced a tricky two-putt up to the back tier to secure her third LET tour title, all won in Australia.
If had made it to the back [tier] it would have made it a bit less stressful, said MacLaren, who faced a long wait after Carmen Alonso needed a ruling after hitting it in the left garden.
I could have hit [the] three-wood and got it back there but I didn’t want to risk bringing long into play. I thought if I could get it onto the green I would back myself to two-putt for four.
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