It was a spectacular final day for Smilla Tarning Soenderby as she secured a dramatic play-off victory at the 2023 KPMG Women’s Irish Open.
Report by the LET
Smilla Tarning Soenderby headed into the final day in a tie for 21st place after rounds of 71-67-72 on the first three days at Dromoland Castle.
But the Dane fired the round of her life – a 62 (-10) – to post the clubhouse lead and was later joined by Sweden’s Lisa Pettersson and Anne Van Dam of the Netherlands.
The trio headed back to the 18th hole for the play-off where the 23-year-old reached the green in two and sunk her eagle putt to secure her maiden title on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
“I’m not quite sure what happened in the play-off! I hit a good drive,” said the newest LET winner. “It was a very long drive compared to the first round there.
“Then I had 178 and just wanted to hit a 5-iron to the middle of the green and missed it a bit left. It sounded like I almost holed it and then the putt went in. I didn’t think my score was enough when I got into the clubhouse, but it turned out to be enough.
“It is redemption, after the 18th last year I said I’m okay to not be in the play-off because I’m not sure I’m ready to be in that position and I’m ready for it now.
“It means so much. I could see first that I had been in that position last year, so I knew how to handle those emotions and feelings on the 18th fairway, so I knew what to do and I did it. Well done to Lisa and to Anne as well.”
Watch final round highlights from the KPMG Women's Irish Open
Earlier in the day, Soenderby got off to a hot start with birdies on the first, third, fifth, seventh before adding another on the ninth to make the turn in 30 (-5).
The Danish player continued to build her momentum rolling in three more on the trot on 10, 11 and 12 before dropping her only shot of the day on 14.
However, she soon picked up where she left off with birdies on 15, 16 and 18 to finish with a flourish and set the clubhouse lead on 16-under-par.
“It is my best round; I think what went the most right was in my head and the mental game for sure,” she explained.
“It wasn’t my best ball-striking ever at all, I maybe hit two good shots striking wise. I was just in play from the tee, and I hit them onto the greens, and I hit some good putts and out of nowhere I was 10-under.
“I love this place, it’s probably my favourite place to be. I was really looking forward to it, I was very calm and just happy all week. I knew I could score low as well and I knew it was coming today. My mum sent me a text last night and said, ‘burn up the course today, go low I know you can do it’. I did some meditation last night and through the morning and it was very easy for me to be aware of where my head was at and still have control.”
As the Dane approached 18 green in her final round, she thought about last year’s tournament where she made a three-putt and missed out on an opportunity to win, however it was a different story this time around.
She added: “When I hit it up in the front of the green on 18, it was similar to last year and I hit it in the fringe, and I’ve really been comfortable with hitting from the fringe. My speed was perfect on that one, but I had my coach’s voice in the back of my head.
“Last year I could barely grip my putter, whereas this year I was more calm. I always start getting nervous on the eighth hole and I just got used to the nervousness. I was in the same position last year so just knew how to handle it.”
A play-off with Pettersson and Van Dam
It was a good day for Sweden’s Pettersson who had an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys on her scorecard for a round of 68 (-4) and also post a total of 16-under-par.
In the play-off, Pettersson also found the green in two but her second shot rolled down the back of the green and she was unable to make her eagle or birdie putts.
Dutch star Van Dam held a three-shot lead going into the final round but had an up and down day with four bogeys and five birdies on her card for a 71 (-1) but one of those birdies came at the last to make it a three-way play-off.
However, on the way to the play-off Van Dam’s bag got caught under a gallery rope and fell off the buggy which led to her driver shaft snapping.
Despite that, the five-time LET winner still made the most of the play-off hole hitting the green in two and just missed her eagle putt which would have forced another hole.
Best ever LET result for Rudgeley
Australia’s Kirsten Rudgeley ended the tournament in fourth place on 15-under-par after shooting a round of 67 (-5) on the final day.
The LET rookie made a hot start with five birdies on her front nine, she then went bogey-bogey on 12 and 13 but recovered with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to record her best-ever LET result.
Rudgeley said: “I’m proud of myself, it’s my first year. I’m happy I went back home as it sorted a few things out. It was a solid week, I didn’t do too much wrong. It was my first time in this situation as well and good to be able to push all the way to the end. I loved it and it was good to be in contention.”
England’s Annabel Dimmock and Sweden’s Sara Kjellker finished the week in a tie for fifth place on 14-under-par after they both shot rounds of 67 (-7).
Dimmock said: “I struggled with the way I’ve been hitting it and then that swing at the last was the best swing I’ve done all day. I was picturing the shot and thought I’d go for it because I wanted a big finish and knew if I could make an eagle, I would jump up a lot and it came off, so I was really happy.
“I’m playing well, I didn’t hit it that well this week but I feel like I’m hitting and playing well and my short game was good today, I have worked on that a lot in the last year. I feel good in my game and I hope I do go on a good run. If I can get a win before the end of the year I would be really happy.”
India’s Diksha Dagar was seventh on 13-under-par with 2022 champion Klara Davidson Spilkova one shot further back in eighth place.
Five players ended in a share of ninth place with Finland’s Ursula Wikstrom, Austria’s Sarah Schober, Italy’s Alessandra Fanali, Sweden’s Moa Folke and France’s Anne-Lise Caudal on 10-under-par.
Race to Costa del Sol
In the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol, France’s Celine Boutier still leads the way with 1,725.38 points with Spain’s Ana Peláez Trivino in second place with 1,487.20 points.
India’s Dagar has moved up to third place and now has a tally of 1,337.34 with fellow countrywoman Aditi Ashok in fourth and Sweden’s Linn Grant in fifth.
Czechia’s Davidson Spilkova is sixth with Germany’s Olivia Cowan in seventh, Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson in eighth, while English duo Cara Gainer and Charley Hull round out the top 10.
View the full KPMG Women's Irish Open leaderboard here.
The LET now moves to Holland and the Big Green Egg Open, which has possibly the best tee markers on all tours!