Sanchez Wins BMW Ladies Italian Open


ROME -- Ana-Belen Sanchez from Spain became the fourth first time winner on the Robe di Kappa Ladies European Tour this season with a deserved, yet narrow victory in the BMW Ladies Italian Open.
The 28-year-old from Malaga, who has finished 17 times in the top ten during a six year professional career, finally rid herself of the tag of best player not to have won on Tour with a sterling performance in Sundays weather interrupted final round.
Sanchez posted rounds of 71, 69, 72 and a final round 3-under-par 69 for a 7-under total to win the 41,250 (Euros) first prize one shot ahead of Germanys Martina Eberl, who put up a spirited challenge with a 5-under-par 67, which included a dramatic eagle three at the last hole to put Sanchez under pressure to 2-putt from 35-feet for victory.
Sanchez, who led by two shots from Italys own Diana Luna heading into the final round, began in shakily with a bogey at the par-5 fourth before a thunderstorm caused a suspension of play for nearly three hours.
It was a nervous time for Sanchez, who joined a throng of fellow Spaniards in the clubhouse while the thunder and lightning threatened to cancel play altogether. And after receiving plenty of encouragement form her compatriots, Sanchez regrouped when play resumed and notched up birdies at the seventh, ninth and 11th holes.
Eberl trailed by two at the 13th hole after racking up three birdies in her first 11 holes. But her hopes of winning seemingly ended when she bogeyed the par-5, while Sanchez birdied increasing the margin to four shots.
Both players then swapped birdies at the short par-4 17th and the Spaniard, who made a hash of the 18th hole in Saturdays third round, almost did the same thing again.
Eberl teed off and nailed it 290-yards down the center of the fairway and Sanchez, arguably the biggest hitter on the LET pulled her tee shot into the left water hazard. After a penalty drop, she had to lay up as Eberl smashed her approach at the par five just left of the green.
When I hit my fourth shot, I hit it fat and I was screaming GO, explained Sanchez.
I knew it would be a tricky two-putt and then Martina went and holed her third shot from off the green.
Eberl had put the pressure on the Spaniard, who must have been thinking if it really was her time to win. But Sanchez, one of Europes Solheim Cup heroes of Sweden last year, almost nonchalantly stroked her first putt to the side of the hole, leaving her no more than a tap-in for her maiden win.
That was definitely the hardest two-putt I have ever had in my life, admitted the Spaniard.
Right now, I just cant describe what I feel.but I think Im happy, she joked.
I got all the pressure on the 18th again. I was thinking that with a four shot lead, all I needed to do was hit the fairway, lay up, knock my third on and I should be OK. But then I hit it left in the waterits my bogey hole.
Martina played really well all day long and she never gave up.
Eberl, a former European amateur champion who can always been seen with a huge smile on her face, was delighted both for Sanchez and for her best finish in a two year career.
After the 13th, I was actually quite calm where normally Id be furious and when I was coming up to the 17th, my goal was just to finish second on my own, said Eberl, who picked up 27,912 for her efforts.
But when I holed the chip, I was counting the scores and I knew Ana had to make a two putt and to be honest, I was happy she did. She really deserved it and its about time she had a win and Im really happy for her.
Karine Icher from France took third place outright on 3-under-par after a faultless 68 and was showing similar form which earned her three Tour victories as she heads onto home territory for next weeks Ladies French Open in Arras.
Virginie Beauchet from France carded a final round 68 to finish fourth on her own at 2-under, while Italys own Diana Luna in fifth place on level par after a disappointing 74 in front of her hometown gallery.