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Hjorth wins English Open for first LET title

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 eight 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 year's $2.5million Evian Masters in a fortnight and also the £1.04m Weetabix Women's 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 women's golf, Hjorth was feeling emotional as her achievements began to sink in.

"I still can't 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 England's Lora Fairclough - after carding eight birdies, which included a grandstand finish with three-in-a-row at the closing holes.

Hjorth's 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 Australia's 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 four 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 five 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 16 th and 17 th 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.

"It's been very frustrating over the last 18 months, it's 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 Webb's swing guru Ian Triggs on making her swing more upright and consistent.

"It's been a tough year in America but I've been playing a lot better the last month or so but I couldn't put three rounds together. You know it's going to happen sometime, but you just don't 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.

"It's 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 didn't 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.

"I've had a final round 68 and gave it my all out there," said Stupples. "I really can't complain.

"The whole week has just been amazing, it's lovely to be back at home and I've had a very enjoyable week. The support has been unbelievable out there and the tournament has a fantastic winner in Maria."

FINAL SCORES FROM THE LADIES ENGLISH OPEN

197  - Maria Hjorth (SWE) 66 67 64

203  - Joanne Mills (AUS) 67 68 68

204  - Karen Stupples (ENG) 67 69 68, Asa Gottmo (SWE) 68 67 69

205  - Trish Johnson (ENG) 69 69 67, Anja Monke (GER) 72 65 68

206  - Minea Blomqvist (FIN) 66 71 69

207  - Lora Fairclough (ENG) 72 71 64, Iben Tinning (DEN) 70 68 69, Veronica Zorzi (ITA) 73 65 69

208  - Laurette Maritz (SA) 68 71 69, Gwladys Nocera (FRA) 71 66 71, Karen Margrethe Juul (DEN) 70 67 71, Margherita Rigon (ITA) 67 68 73

209  - Kirsty Taylor (ENG) 72 69 68, Stephanie Arricau (FRA) 71 70 68, Shelley McKevitt (Am) (ENG) 71 69 69, Becky Brewerton (WAL) 68 68 73

210  - Linda Wessberg (SWE) 72 72 66, Suzanne O'Brien (IRE) 71 71 68, Stefania Croce (ITA) 71 70 69, Karen Lunn (AUS) 72 68 70, Virginie Beauchet (FRA) 68 71 71

211  - Nina Karlsson (SWE) 70 72 69, Johanna Westerberg (SWE) 70 72 69, Cecilia Ekelundh (SWE) 72 69 70, Filippa Helmersson (SWE) 73 68 70, Sophie Giquel (FRA) 73 68 70, Alison Nicholas (ENG) 68 72 71, Cecilie Lundgreen (NOR) 69 70 72, Julie Forbes (SCO) 66 72 73

212  - Natascha Fink (AUT) 71 72 69, Laura Davies (ENG) 73 69 70, Nathalie David (FRA) 70 72 70, Marta Prieto (ESP) 72 70 70, Anne-Marie Knight (AUS) 70 70 72, Lynnette Brooky (NZ) 74 65 73, Barbara Paruscio (ITA) 69 70 73

213  - Nuria Clau (ESP) 70 75 68, Eleanor Pilgrim (WAL) 73 70 70, Helena Svensson (SWE) 73 70 70, Nienke Nijenhuis (NL) 71 70 72, Lara Tadiotto (BEL) 69 70 74

214  - Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 73 72 69, Emma Zackrisson (SWE) 72 73 69, Valerie Van Ryckeghem (BEL) 73 71 70, Wendy Dicks (ENG) 69 74 71, Virginie Auffret (FRA) 73 69 72, Karine Icher (FRA) 71 71 72, Valerie Michaud (FRA) 71 71 72, Gina Scott (NZ) 70 71 73, Diana Luna (ITA) 74 67 73, Monica Cosenza (ITA) 68 71 75

215  - Christina Kuld (DEN) 69 75 71, Amanda Moltke-Leth (DEN) 69 72 74

216  - Nicole Stillig (GER) 74 71 71, Elin Olsson (SWE) 74 71 71, Anna Becker (SWE) 73 71 72, Vibeke Stensrud (NOR) 70 69 77

217  - Jane Leary (AUS) 73 70 74, Carina Vagner (DEN) 71 71 75

218  - Marine Monnet (FRA) 75 70 73, Corinne Dibnah (AUS) 74 71 73, Marina Arruti (ESP) 73 72 73, Tina Schneeberger (AUT) 70 74 74, Kerry Smith (Am) (ENG) 72 71 75

219  - Sofia Renell (SWE) 70 75 74

222  - Kerry Knowles (ENG) 77 68 77

RTD  - Caroline Hall (ENG) 74 71 RTD

 

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