French trailblazer Celine Boutier has added a second Ladies European Tour title to her name with a resounding win in the inaugural Australian Ladies Classic Bonville in Coffs Harbour today.
It took longer than expected. Throughout the week the heavens threatened to deluge the Coffs Harbour region, and despite many false starts the downpours and lightning finally gave way around 1.45pm – stopping play for more than three hours.
All it did was delay the inevitable. Boutier, who started the day five strokes ahead of her nearest rival, stared down the challengers one-by-one to record her second LET win, four months after capturing her maiden title at the Sanya Ladies Open in November.
“It was hard, and I was a little bit nervous,” 24-year-old Boutier admitted later, concerned the sustained rain and fading light might halt her momentum when play finally resumed at 5.45pm (AEDST).
“It’s not always easy when you have to get back out in the middle of a round but I did my best.”
The biggest challenge was meant to come from Hannah Green, but her putter let her down this week. The 22-year-old West Australian, considered the hottest talent in the women’s ranks in Australia, found the greens difficult to read and managed a high finish in the event without setting the place on fire.
Her week was best illustrated by her final hole in the event, where she drove the ball to 150m on the par-five 18th, struck a beautiful iron 12 feet from the hole and then three-putted. Still, she said all week that she was struggling with her putter.
“The first two days I can’t complain about but the last two days there was no momentum. I said to Paul (her caddy) ‘That pretty sums up the week right there, in front of everyone’.”
Boutier also saw off the challenge from Holly Clyburn, which never came throughout the weekend despite the Briton leading after the opening two rounds.
The fight came from the young American Katie Burnett. Something changed from the 28-year-old’s previous two LPGA starts – where she missed both cuts. On moving day here, Saturday, she moved up the leaderboard with the equal-best round of the day. Then on contending day, she gave Boutier a scare.
The Georgian missed a four-footer for eagle on 7, then missed genuine birdie chances on 12, 14, and 17, but had reduced Boutier’s lead throughout the afternoon from five to the eventual two strokes the French youngster needed to win.
“Celine played really well. I missed a few opportunities, but I did start the day five back, and I started the tournament four-over through 11. If you had’ve told me then that I would finish second I would’ve been like ‘ok, great’.”
Of the Australians, Queenslander Rebecca Artis said on Saturday she could win from six back, but a one-over front nine ended those hopes. The talented Queenslander will take full confidence into her first season on the LPGA with a strong back nine, to finish at -1 for the day and -4 for the tournament in T7.
“I didn’t make enough putts,” the 29-year-old said.
“In the last two days I had to get my husband (who is also her caddy) in to help me read them. Overall, top 10. I’m not too unhappy with that.”
The fight for leading amateur came down to a birdie for Stephanie Bunque on the last hole, putting the young Victorian into the top 20 and securing her the plate.
“I thought it was really good in the end,” Bunque said of her week.
“It was pretty evident on the first day that I struggled with the greens (she shot 77). Coming from Melbourne we’re not used to grainy greens.
“But I thought I bounced back very well for the next three days. I kept my cool, knew what I had to do and go out there and do it.”
LEADERBOARD (after final round)
1: Boutier, Celine – 10
2: Burnett, Katie – 8
3: Jonsdottir, Valdis – 7
4: Holmqvist, Daniela – 6
T5: Madsen, Nanna – 3
T5: Clyburn, Holly – 5
T7: Danielson, Casey – 4
T7: Artis, Rebecca – 4
T9: Thompson, Charlotte – 3
T9: Green, Hannah – 3