Rising star Pia Babnik storms to seven-shot win at Royal Troon

Fifteen-year-old Slovenian Pia Babnik stepped up her bid to play in the Junior Solheim Cup at Gleneagles later this year after completing an impressive wire-to-wire win in the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open.

Slovenia's Pia Babnik poses with the Helen Holm Trophy after her victory at Royal Troon. Picture: Scottish Golf

Babnik, the world No 37, followed opening rounds of 66 and 69 over Troon Portland with a closing six-under-par 66 on Royal Troon, finishing seven shots clear of the field with a 15-under-par 201 total.

“This is the biggest win of my career,” she admitted afterwards. “The Junior Solheim Cup is my big aim this year and this is a big help towards that.”

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Babnik, who recorded top-ten finishes in both the Portuguese and Spanish Women’s Championships earlier in the year, started the day with a four-shot lead and cruised to victory.

She rolled in a 30-foot putt for an eagle at the par-5 sixth before adding birdies at the seventh, ninth, 12th and 16th.

France’s Charlotte Bunel finished as her closest challenger after signing off with a 69, with Sharna Dutrieux third on seven under, a shot ahead of the leading home player, Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam.

“I knew I was well ahead of the rest and just tried to keep calm and play my own game. I’m very happy,” added Babnik. “I enjoyed it so much. It was sunny and warm and no wind. It was great. This was my first time here. I handled it well. It was a course that suited me.

“I was four when I started golf. There are not many players in Slovenia, but we have enough courses. There’s a chance to train and practise properly.”

It was another solid performance in the event by top-ranked Scot McWilliam, who carded a third straight 70.

“I think I’ve had every top-five position in this championship except for first. Hopefully next year,” said the Curtis Cup player, who had been wishing for some wind for the final round.

Referring to a 20-footer as she got up and down from a front right greenside bunker at the last, she added: “That was the only putt that dropped. I couldn’t get the pace of the greens. I was either leaving them inches short or putting them three feet past.

“I had two lip-outs for eagle, having also had two 12-footers for eagle yesterday that just lipped out, so if I’d holed them, who knows what could have happened.”

Heaping praise on the winner, McWilliam continued: “Fifteen-under is great scoring. Around these two courses it is amazing. And she’s only 15 as well.”

Before having a crack at the pro ranks, McWilliam is hoping to retain her spot in the Great Britain & Ireland team for next year’s Curtis Cup at Conwy.

“I’m playing full-time amateur and I’m a home carer as well, so going to get some work in, play full-time this year, full-time next year, and then hopefully turn pro the end of next year,” she said.

“Vagliano Trophy this year and Curtis Cup next year, fingers crossed.”

Royal Troon’s Hazel MacGarvie and Dubai-based Alison Muirhead finished joint sixth on three under, two shots ahead of three more home players – Chloe Goadby, Jasmine Mackintosh and Hannah Darling – in a share of tenth.

Represented by MacWilliam and Goadby, Scotland won the team event by 15 shots from England.