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26th September 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Home win for Munoz in Marbella

2016spanishopen_azaharamunoz_sltLocal hero Azahara Munoz held her nerve over the closing holes to become the first Spanish champion at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open in Marbella this weekend.

Just a month after her Olympic debut in Rio, the Spaniard posted a closing two-under-par 70 at the magnificent Aloha Golf Club in Marbellato to edge out American Beth Allen by a lone stroke.

The victory was her fourth on the European Ladies Tour, but it was clearly the most emotional.

“This is simply amazing,” said the 28-year-old, who lives nearby in San Pedro Alcantara. “A victory is always a victory, but winning at home is incredible. You know, having everyone here, my family, my friends; this means everything.”

However, runner-up Allen will be disappointed at the way she allowed first prize to slip from her grasp at Aloha Golf Club.

The 34-year-old Californian teed-up on Sunday as the 54-hole leader, and she reached the turn in just 33 strokes to extend her advantage to three. But a back nine of 39 – which included a bogey-five at the final hole – allowed Munoz to cross the finishing line ahead of her.

Allen pulled her shot left into the lake at the closing hole and was forced to take a drop, which ultimately allowed Munoz the luxury of taking two putts from seven feet for the title.

The Spanish winner played solidly all day, including a run of 10 straight pars from the fourth. She drew level for a second time on the par-three 17th, thanks to a 25-footer for birdie.

Although Munoz is based at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, she loves playing at home.

“It’s so great to come home and play in front of the fans,” she said. “Finally we got this tournament back and hopefully it will stay here for many more years. To be able to play here and just sleep at home, it’s amazing. It’s been a hard week and at the beginning of the week I was so stressed out and so anxious.

“It is amazing to win in front of everybody and so many people came out, so I’m really grateful to them. I had so many opportunities and I hit so many putts that didn’t go in, but I kept telling myself to stay patient. Finally, I made such a good putt on the 17th.”

Allen, who was chasing a second tournament success on the Ladies European Tour, lost her way on the 12th when she visited water for the first time during her final round of 72.

“Obviously I’m super disappointed, especially having had a three-shot lead going into the back nine,” Allen said. ‘I just didn’t play very well on the back nine and she did, so it’s fine. It’s second but it’s not the outcome I wanted.”

Meanwhile South Africa’s Stacy Bregman carded rounds of 74, 74 and 75, but a closing 70 lifted the Sunshine Ladies Tour winner to tie for 31st on five over 293.

Compatriot Nicole Garcia signed off with an 80 to finish in joint 62nd on 17 over after earlier rounds of 73, 74 and 77. Ashleigh Simon and defending champion Connie Chen both missed the cut.

Photo – Azarah Munoz; credit LET / Tristan Jones