Julia Engstrom (Ladies Golf Union photo)
Julia Engstrom, who had her 15th birthday on March 27, has become the youngest ever winner of the title in the 113th Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship at Dundonald Links, Ayrshire in Scotland.
She surpassed the record of Lauren Taylor who was 16 when she was crowned champion at Royal Portrush in 2011.
Engstrom won a pulsating final against 19-year-old Dewi Weber from Groningen in the Netherlands at the 19th as lightning flickered, thunder crashed and it rained quite heavily.
The young Swede from Halmstadt was three up after 11 holes and looking comfortable. But it all changed over the next few holes. Engstrom lost the the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th to be suddenly one down on the 18th tee.
Weber was now the favourite to take the title in the changed circumstances but she bogeyed the 18th and also the 19th for Engstrom to be the new champion.
Engstrom got off to a dream start in the final by winning the first with a par 4, the fourth with a birdie 2 (20ft putt) and the long fifth, also with a birdie, holing a 25ft putt after taking three to get on.That put her three up on the sixth tee and in command at that moment.
Weber got one back with a pitch-and-putt par 4 at the eighth, holing an 8ft putt while Engstorm, who had driven into a bunker and had to play out sideways, could do no better than a bogey 5.
The ninth was halved in par 4s, Engstrom's approximate score for the front nine being two-under 34 while Weber matched the par of 36.
The young Swede's birdie putt lipped out at the 10th which was halved in 4s.
Engstrom regained a three-hole lead with a conceded birdie 2 at the short 11th where Weber bunkered her tee shot and took two shots to get out of the sand.They halved the 12th in par 4s as rain began to fall and thunder crashed in the dark clouds above them but lightning was, fortunately, 15 miles away.Weber had not given up hope and she cut Engstrom's lead to two holes by winning the 13th with a one-putt par 4.
Both players were bunkered but Engstrom took two shots to get out of the trap and had a double bogey 6 ... her worst hole for a day or two at least!Weber's tail was up and she cut her deficit to one hole with a par 5 at the 14th to Engstrom's bogey 6.On now wet greens, the players were having difficulty in judging how hard to hit their putts. Both hit the green at the short 15th with their tee shots but both three-putted to halve the hole in bogey 4s.Engstrom still one up with three holes to play but she had lost her sure touch of earlier in the final and she bogeyed the 16th to lose to a two-putt par 4 by Weber who thus squared the contest for the first time.Engstrom took three to get down from rough just short of the green, missing a 4ft putt which would have salvaged a par 4.
The Swedish 15-year-old's woes continued when she three-putted the 17th for a bogey 5 to go one down for the first time in the match.But there was still another twist of fortune to come. Weber was too bold with her approach to the 18th green, landed in a deep bunker through the back of it and took three to get down from there for a bogey 6. Engstrom with a two-putt par 5 squared the match.As the players walked down the 19th - the first hole on the course - there was a streak of lightning in the vicinity of the first green and it was raining heavily.Engstrom, having regrouped, played the better approach shot, to within about 4ft of the flagstick. Weber was about 20ft past the hole and she misjudged her downhill putt, the ball running about 5ft past.The Dutch player could not hole the one back and with a bogey 5, she conceded Engstrom her birdie putt, the hole, the match and the British title.What a roller-coaster ride over the last seven holes!
Both finalists had beaten higher world ranked players in the morning semi-finals.Engstrom KO'd World No 4 Maria Parra (Spain) by 2 and 1 with three-under-par figures while Weber beat USA Curtis Cup player Monica Vaughan, No 15 in the world rankings, by one hole.
Next year's championship will be played at Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club, South Wales from June 13 to 17.