Ekelundh Triumphs at Ladies Open of Portugal


COSTA DA CAPARICA, Portugal -- Swedens Cecilia Ekelundh credited divine intervention from the heavens above as she plotted her way around Aroeira 1 Golf Club her way to winning the Ladies Open of Portugal, sponsored by Lancia, her maiden title on the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour.
While the weather gods had a sabbatical as the cold rain lashed down among the lollipop pines on Lisbons Costa Azul, the golfing gods sat up and smiled on the amiable Swede who conceded much luck was needed during a final round 5-under-par 67.
Ekelundh grabbed the first prize after reaching 10 under par, three shots ahead of compatriot Linda Wessberg, who had a 70 and a further five ahead of third placed Trish Johnson from England who had 72.
The 26-year-old from Karlskrona led after the first round thanks to a six birdie back nine of 30 in her opening 67. And after a battling 72 on Saturdays second round, she shared the lead heading into Sunday with Johnson and Wessberg.
Johnson and Wessberg made the early running with opening birdies and Ekelundh had to wait until the sixth hole before her first red number appeared. Then, trying to force the pace at the top of the leaderboard, Ekelundh began to block her drives to the right as the tension mounted.
A lesser mortal may have crumbled under the pressure from six-time Solheim Cupper Johnson and the rookie Wessberg, whose putter was seemingly incandescent.
But it was to be Ekelundhs day as endured some of the most outrageous fortunes as she visited the trees three times in four holes around the turn and made birdie at each one of them to extend her lead.
Pick of the bunch came at the 13th when she had no passage to the green after a pushed drive and she opted to lay up with a punched 6-iron, just after Wessberg and Johnson knocked their approaches close.
With 60-yards to the pin, a difficult shot under the pressure, Ekelundh pitched it up the green, the ball took one hard bounce and disappeared into the hole like a rat down a drainpipe to move three shots clear.
But it was then she realized she had lost her late mothers lucky heart charm necklace and the emotion was too much as she bogeyed the 14th. Johnson could have taken advantage, but three putted as her opportunity for her 17th worldwide win slipped away there and then.
Ekelundh gathered her thoughts and matched birdies with Wessberg at the 15th and when she holed a curling 20 footer on the 17th green to move three clear, the contest was over, the nerves subsided, but the emotions kicked in.
You definitely need skill and lots of luck to win and its an amazing feeling now, admitted Ekelundh, whose mother passed away four years ago.
I felt the pressure all day long out there. I didnt get off to the best start and I tried not to get too excited. But there were scoreboards everywhere and you cant help but look at them.
Linda was putting great, so I had to putt great too. The pitch in at the 12th turned it around for me and then I noticed I lost my mums heart necklace. Ive been thinking about her a lot this week and I think she was looking down on me, too. I did this for her.
Along with the winners check, Ekelundh was awarded a diamond ring, some consolation for losing her mothers locket. But for this happy-go-lucky Swede, Portugal will always have a place in her heart.