Darling victorious as Coulter's challenge fades

 
There was final hole heartbreak for County Down’s Beth Coulter as she let slip a one shot lead playing the last to finish second at the Girls Under 16 Open Championship at Fulford Golf Club in York.
 

Hannah Darling / Image from R&A
 
The Kirkistown Castle player stood on the par-5 18th knowing that a par would be enough to seal the victory, and having played the par-5s in 13 under to that point for the week, thanks largely to her formidable long hitting, she would have been confident getting the job done.
 
However it all came unstuck for the 14-year-old after her second shot hit a tree, sending her ball out of bounds. The mistake led to a costly eight blows to finish the tournament two shots behind Scotland’s Hannah Darling on minus two for her 54-holes.
 
“I felt for Beth at the last when she went out of bounds”, admitted the winner. “It’s not nice to see a competitor do that, especially one you are quite close to on the leaderboard.
 
“The competition has been amazing. The R&A have done an amazing job as have Fulford Golf Club and the green staff to keep the course in such good condition.I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
 
There was consolation for Coulter though as she claimed the prize for the Under 14 section by four strokes from Italy’s Charlotte Cattaneo.
 
England’s Rosie Bee Kim, the youngest competitor in the field at only 10-years-old, parred the last three holes to win the Under 12 section by a stroke from Grace Crawford of Scotland.
 
It will be tough to take for the youngster who dropped five shots over her last four having looked so accomplished and comfortable in building her lead to that point. But Coulter was already looking at the positives in a mature take on events post round.
 
“It was a bit of a rollercoaster all the way round”, she reflected. “Coming down the last, I wasn’t scoreboard watching so I didn’t know how Hannah was doing. I was actually standing over the ball and said ‘don’t hit the tree and go out of bounds’ and that’s exactly what I did. It was maybe a wee bit too risky, I should have played out for par. I’ve just got to learn from it and get on with it. It was one shot.
 
“But very well done to Hannah, she deserved it, she played very well today. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for me. I’ve only been playing competitively for three years so it was a great learning experience this week.”
Indeed a 78 wouldn’t have been the return she was wanting having broken par for the first two days but she should take immense pride and confidence from how she performed at the inaugural event as she showcased her powerful talents for the majority of the tournament.
 
A reserve for Great Britain and Ireland in last year’s Junior Vagliano Trophy, a bright future lies in wait for one of Ireland’s rising stars. It might not seem like it now but this experience will stand to her when confronted with similar obstacles throughout the season. 
 
The next time she finds herself leading a tournament down the stretch Coulter will know exactly what she has to do to get over the line and given her talents, that will most likely be sooner rather than later.
 
As for the rest of the Irish in the field, Woodstock’s Aine Donegan closed with a 78 of her own to secure a 13thplace finish on five over for the tournament. Old Conna’s Lucia Masding finished in a share of 35thspot on plus 17 while Tramore’s Anna Dawson went 10 shots better than she managed yesterday to return an 81 for a share of 67th.
 
The Girls Under 16 Open Championship has been introduced as part of The R&A’s drive to boost the girls’ game in Great Britain and Ireland and beyond, as well as provide a pathway to the elite amateur level for leading young players.