Hjorth Wins Maiden Title

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BIDDENDEN, England -- Maria Hjorth ended an eight year wait to win her first title on the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour and not only did she win the Ladies English Open in scintillating fashion with a final round course record equalling 8-under 64, Hjorth also smashed the eight year-old LET record for the lowest 54-hole total.
 
It got better for the Swede as her victory earned her a place in this years $2.5million Evian Masters in a fortnight and also the Weetabix Womens British Open at Sunningdale in three weeks time.
 
All of this came after a torrid year to date for Mimmi on the LPGA Tour, where she earned only $13,348 in 13 starts. But after picking up 26,859 and entry to two of the biggest events in womens golf, Hjorth was feeling emotional as her achievements began to sink in.
 
I still cant believe it, said a delighted Hjorth. I was lucky to make a few birdies early on and that really helped me get comfortable out there.
 
Looking for both a confidence booster and entry to the Evian Masters, an event at which she has finished runner up on occasions, the 30-year-old from Falun in Sweden demonstrated the form which saw her lead the birdie making statistics on the LPGA Tour in 2001 when she made 407 in a season.
 
Hjorth only had one bogey in three rounds and on Sunday, equalled the course record - set earlier in the day by Englands Lora Fairclough - after carding eight birdies, which included a grandstand finish with three-in-a-row at the closing holes.
 
Hjorths 19-under par total 197, which beat the previous record of 200 set by Trish Johnson in the 1996 French Open, was good enough for a six shot victory from Australias Joanne Mills, who despite a final round 68, could not put any pressure on the Swede.
 
And local favourite Karen Stupples from Deal also had a 4-under par 68 to finish in a tie with another Swede, Asa Gottmo on 12 under par.
 
Johnson showed a return to form after a frustrating six weeks on Tour with a closing 5-under 67 and shared fifth place with German rookie Anja Monke, who had a 68.
 
But it was Hjorth who, knowing she had the title in the bag after birdies at the 16th and 17th to forge a five shot lead, played the final hole with tears in her eyes as she made perhaps the most emotional birdie of her career to date to secure the title.
 
Its been very frustrating over the last 18 months, its been very hard, but you just never know when the game is going to come round again, said Hjorth, who has been coached by Karrie Webbs swing guru Ian Triggs on making her swing more upright and consistent.
 
Its been a tough year in America but Ive been playing a lot better the last month or so but I couldnt put three rounds together. You know its going to happen sometime, but you just dont know when and this week, it all came together perfectly.
 
I just tried to focus on what I was doing today and I was surprised that nobody made a challenge, but having a few birdies at the start myself really helped keep the pressure off.
 
Its pretty nice to know I broke the Tour record and finishing with those three birdies was fabulous and knowing that I now get into Evian is great. That was part of the reason to come and play over here. I love that event and to get into the British Open too, which I didnt know if I could or not, is an extra bonus.
 
The local fans were all praying for Stupples to become the first winner on either side of the Atlantic, but the 31-year-old from Deal had no qualms about what Hjorth had achieved with an amazing final round.
 
Ive had a final round 68 and gave it my all out there, said Stupples. I really cant complain.
 
The whole week has just been amazing, its lovely to be back at home and Ive had a very enjoyable week. The support has been unbelievable out there and the tournament has a fantastic winner in Maria.