Melrose-born Karis Davidson picked up more than £30,000 in her first Tour start as a professional after the 19-year-old finished second in the Oates Vic Open in Australia.
Davidson, who has lived in Queensland since her family emigrated from Innerleithen ten years ago, looks to be a star in the making on the strength of her eye-catching performance in an event co-sanctioned by the LET and ALPG Tours.
She carded a best-of-the-day 67 in the third round at 13th Beach Golf Links near Melbourne and, despite facing the biggest test of her career, backed that up with a closing 71. Davidson finished with an eight-under-par 284 total, ending up as the closest challenger to Minjee Lee as the world No 20 claimed victory in the event for a second time.
It was a brilliant effort from Davidson, who only turned professional in December after earning a card for the Japan LPGA Tour. “A bit crazy,” she replied to being told that she’d won around £32,000. “I played in a pro-am last week and won $300 – it’s a big jump up to $58,000!” Asked how she planned to spend the money, she added: “Keep it!” A true Scot then? “Well, it’s in my blood,” she continued.
Playing with home favourite Lee and another popular Australian, Hannah Green, in the final group, Davidson birdied the seventh and 15th in a bogey-free closing round. She finished five shots behind Lee but Davidson pipped Georgia Hall, last year’s European No 1, for second spot and also finished ahead of the likes of Cheyenne Woods, Beth Allen and Mel Reid.
“I’m really happy,” she admitted. “It’s my first tournament, so it’s a good start. I just tried to prepare myself as I knew there would be a lot of people watching Minjee and Hannah is also popular out here.
“On a lot of shots I felt my heart going fast and it was a really good feeling.
“This is where I want to be. I did quite well in a couple of amateur competitions and I guess that helped me keep calm today. It’s a great start but I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground. I’ve got a big year ahead. Next up for me is the Australian Open and I then head off to Japan just after that.”
Elsewhere, India’s Shubhankar Sharma closed with a sensational 62 to claim his second win of the season on the European Tour as Marc Warren had a final day to forget in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. Sharma, who claimed his maiden victory in the Joburg Open in December, wasted no time backing up that success as he signed off with a birdie blitz at Saujana Golf & Country Club.
His closing ten-under-par effort saw him finish on 21-under, winning by two shots from Spaniard Jorge Campillo (68), with one of his compatriots, Pablo Larrazábal, and Kiwi Ryan Fox a further stroke back after matching 66s.
The win takes 21-year-old Sharma to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings and he becomes just the third Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri to win two European Tour events in the same season. “The last two months have changed my life,” he said afterwards. “I’ve always dreamt of winning and now I’m a two-time winner on the Asian Tour and European Tour.”
Warren had started the day just two shots off the lead and opened promisingly with his fourth birdie of the week at the par-5 first but then ran up three triple-bogey 7s in the next five holes to crash out of contention. He eventually signed for an 81 to drop more than 60 spots to finish joint-67th on four-under.
Scott Jamieson finished as top Scot after closing with a 69 to end up joint-17th on 13-under. Stephen Gallacher (71) finished in a share of 39th on nine-under, two ahead of Thai-based Simon Yates (69) with Richie Ramsay carding a 71 for a five-under total.