17 May 2011
South African golfer Ashleigh Simon closed with a superb five-under-par 67 in tough, windy conditions to win the ISPS Handa Portugal Ladies Open by three shots at CampoReal Resort and Spa near Lisbon on Sunday.
It was the second professional victory of the 22-year-old’s career. Her first came in only her third tournament as a pro at the 2007 Catalonia Ladies Masters in Spain.
Simon trailed France’s Gwladys Nocera by one shot heading into the third and final round after rounds of 66 and 67 had left her on 11-under-par. Nocera had led by two shots from Simon, fellow South African Stacey Lee Bregman and Australian Sarah Kemp after the first round.
Needing to make up only one shot in the final round, Simon responded with a birdie spree, littered with the occasional bogey, to pull comfortably clear.
She sank four birdies and carded one bogey over the outward nine and followed that up with a further four birdies, as well as two bogeys, over the inward nine to end with an astonishing eight birdies over the last 18 holes.
It was a spectacular effort in testing conditions, a fact which was underlined by the fact that Nocera and Bregman’s 71s, four shots worse off than Simon, were the second best rounds of the final day, during which many players ballooned to well over par.
With rounds of 66, 67 and 67, Simon finished on 16-under-par 200. Nocera posted rounds of 64, 68, and 71 to claim second on 13-under 203.
‘I just had to play my own game’
Interviewed by the Ladies European Tour (LET) afterwards, Simon said: “The conditions were very difficult this morning, a lot of wind, and I knew I just had to play my own game.
“I started off with a birdie, which is always a good thing, and I just played really solidly throughout the day and kept steady and wasn’t really watching leaderboards or worrying what Gwladys (Nocera) was doing.
“I was six ahead with three to play and I dropped at 16 and Gwladys birdied so all of a sudden it [the lead] went to four [shots], but then, after the birdie on 17 and the drive down 18, I knew that it [the title] was mine.”
Reflecting on her second LET title, Simon said: “It’s basically exactly four years ago since I had won. I was 18 at the time, very young, and I’ve been working hard for about a year-and-a-half now, so it feels very rewarding.”
‘I putted well’
She pinpointed her short game as the reason for her success, saying: “I think my short game really saved me. I putted well and when I had to make the up-and-downs I did.”
Simon also said she felt comfortable throughout the event because the conditions were similar to those back home in South Africa.
For Nocera, the final round went awry from the start with successive bogeys, but she fought back well to finish under-par for the day.
Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands, who recently won the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open, finished third, seven shots behind Simon on nine-under-par 207.
Stacey Lee Bregman was let down by a 73 in the second round, but bookended that effort with solid rounds of 66 and 71 to finish in sixth place along with England’s Georgina Simpson on six-under-par 210.
Young South African Connie Chen, aged just 18, was a victim of the difficult conditions on the last day, tumbling to a six-over 78, to finish tied for 38th on five-over-par 221.
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