Hannah Ralph Photo: Adrian Milledge
Hannah Ralph produced the golf strokes of a master in Constable country to win the WPGA International Challenge at Stoke by Nayland.
In what proved a dramatic climax to the third and final round that had seen the lead change hands with bewildering regularity, Ralph posted birdies on the final two holes to claim the €4,000 winner’s cheque.
That is the biggest and most prestigious win of the 25-year-old’s career and she secured it with a flourish.
Having deposited her tee shot on the fringe of the green on the par three 18th of the Gainsborough course at the Suffolk resort, she faced a tricky chip shot to help save par and win the title.
And with Wales teenager Amy Boulden two strokes behind but nursing realistic prospects of a birdie, a miscue by Ralph could have resulted in a play-off.
In the event, the Englishwoman from Cowdray Park Golf Club, Sussex, chipped in to post a final one-under-par round of 71 and a total of seven-under for the 54-hole tournament.
“It was a tough lie,” Ralph explained afterwards. “And I was focusing on trying to get it as close as possible,”.
“But it looked good all the way and went in. It’s always nice to finish on a high but I had to be really patient - I had a lot of birdie opportunities on the front nine and it was just a case of keep going. Happily the patience paid off – I birdied 17 and then the last.
“Without doubt it’s the best win of my career. I played on tour in 2010 and didn’t do that well and I’ve played a couple of tournaments this year but not a lot. So I wasn’t really expecting anything so it’s a bit unbelievable at the moment.”
In the event, Boulden failed to capitalise on her birdie chance and finished three strokes adrift of Ralph and sharing second place with Galina Rotmistrova of Russia.
Rotmistrova, in common with the winner, posted one-under for the third round of the tournament, which carried a €25,000 prize fund and was supported by Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa, the PGA and England Golf.
And for a while, and boosted by three birdies in the first four holes, she looked the likely champion. However, bogeys at the 16th and 18th plus Ralph’s storming finish ended her chances of victory.
Meanwhile, Boulden, who made a very impressive professional debut, suffered similarly. Having birdied the first and third, her challenge effectively evaporated with four bogeys in the outward nine’s remaining six holes.
All of which contributed to her worst round of the tournament, a two-over-par 74.
Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald, who is also new to the professional ranks and was one stroke clear after two rounds, also faltered in the final stages and had to settle for tied fifth place with Finland’s Monica Christiansen, one stroke behind Mireia Prat of Spain who was fourth.