Ireland have finished just outside the Top-10 in the team event at the World Junior Girls Championship played at Camelot Golf Club in Ottawa.
The team of Annabel Wilson, Lauren Walsh and Sara Byrne returned a total score of +17, which left them in 12th place overall in the hotly contested event where the teams from Italy and USA tied at the top of the leaderboard on -22 with Italy coming through to win on the first playoff hole.
In the individual standings, Annabel Wilson was best placed of the Irish players in T19 position on +5, Lauren Walsh was 32nd on +12 and Sara Byrne came through in 52nd place. The overall individual champion was 15 year-old Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand who won on a -20 total having shot a course record -12 final round of 60!
In the team event, the Italian team, who led by as much as 10 strokes earlier in the week, needed to find an extra gear after regulation play concluded and they found it in the form of team stalwart Alessia Nobilio, who sank a final birdie in the last playoff group to capture Italy’s first medal at the World Junior Girls Championship. Nobilio’s teammates Caterina Don and Emilie Paltrinieri, who were waiting anxiously greenside locking arms with coach Enrico Trentin, rushed the green to congratulate the young Italian golfer who led her team all week with her splendid play.
It was a bittersweet defeat for the USA, who managed to close a nine-stroke gap on day three, only to come up short in the end. But for the Italian team, the relief was palpable.
“We had a one-shot lead going into the last round and, you know, in a team event, anything can happen, one shot lead is really nothing,” said Paltrinieri, who was accompanied by her teammates and served as a de facto spokesperson for the team, post-victory. “When we came up to 18, we were quite close, we were actually behind, but Alessia made that great birdie on the finishing hole to force overtime,” added the young golfer from Parigi, Italy.
It is obvious that there is real chemistry between the three Italian girls, who recently competed as a unit at the World Amateur Team Championship in Ireland, placing 6th. That chemistry and mutual friendship serves them well. “When we came here, we celebrated Alessia’s birthday together, being friends is the key for our team, we support each other, when one of us shoots 6 under, we want the other one to shoot 7 under or 8 under,” chimed in Don.
The team spirit was key in acquiring the crown of World Junior Girls Champions for Italy. Joining them on the podium was USA with silver and Thailand with bronze. The Thai team were powered by the fantastic individual display put on by 15 year-old gold medalist Atthaya Thitikul, who shot the lights out at Camelot this week. Nobilio took home silver, while American Zoe Campos captures the bronze medal. Brooke Seay of the USA finished fourth at 8 under for the week, while Canada’s Céleste Dao put up a solid score of 70 (-2) on Friday to finish in fifth place.
The World Junior Girls Championship was conducted by Golf Canada in partnership with Golf Ontario and supported by the R&A and the International Golf Federation. Recognized as an ‘A’ ranked event by the World Amateur Golf Rankings, the World Junior Girls Championship was in its fifth edition. Canada will host again next year.