Heather Macrae and Suzanne Dickens staged their own ‘Duel in the Sun’ for the Titleist & FootJoy Women’s PGA Professional Championship – MacRae finally coming out on top in the heat of battle.
And what a sizzler they served up – with the title being decided via a play-off after the duo had spent the day trading blows for 36-holes over Frilford Heath’s Blue Course, which Macrae summed up as akin to ‘matchplay’ golf.
The new-look format, which saw the championship as a standalone event for the first time, was a real test of stamina as much as skill as Britain baked on the hottest day of the year.
For Macrae, who was making her debut in the tournament, this was a title she desperately wanted to win. It slipped from her grasp over the final three holes of regulation play, a bogey at 16 and a double at 17 opened the door for 2014 champion Dickens (Thorpe Wood), who sunk a birdie on the last to take it into extra time with the pair tied on four-under-par.
The play-off lasted one hole as Dickens uncharacteristically topped her tee shot to hand the advantage to her rival. Dickens recovered as she hit her second to the fringe of the green but Macrae landed her approach shot 12 feet from the pin to ramp up the pressure.
Dickens’s putt from off the green fell eight feet shy of the pin. Macrae’s first attempt glanced at the hole leaving a tap in – and Dickins needing to hole out to take them back to the tee. But it wasn’t to be and Macrae duly took the title and the winner’s cheque for £1,000.
“I’m really proud to be a PGA pro and winning this tournament is a great event to win,” said Macrae, who is based at Archerfield Links.
“To have my name on this trophy is something I set out to do at the start of the year so I’m delighted to come and get it done. I really wanted to win and it means a lot to win an event like this.”
It was an incredible display by the pair who shared 22 birdies between them, such was the high standard of play.
Dickens, from Thorpe Wood, held a three shot advantage at the halfway stage, overcoming a double bogey on the first to sprinkle seven birdies across her card for a five-under-par 66 and a three shot lead after Macrae double bogeyed the last to card a 69.
The second round was an epic as the destiny of the title swung from one to the other, as they jousted with each other as birdies and bogeys were carded in regular fashion.
It looked to be Macrae’s with three to go as she held a two shot advantage over her rival and had been imperious on the back nine with four birdies until the exciting – unexpected finale. Macrae carded another 69 with Dickens adding a 72.
Macrae added: “I played really nice today. I made a silly double on the 18th in the first round and tried my best to do the same second time round but I managed to hang in there.
“I never really thought about how tight it was until about four or five holes from the end as I knew I just had to stay focussed.
“I played nice the first round and gave a few back and I just tried to play my own game and make birdies. I knew that I was doing well and then 17 was a car crash and apart from that it was really good.”
Dickens, who was pleased to have been challenging for the title, said: “It’s been a long day but it’s been a fun day. I was really happy with my round this morning even with a double on the first. It was tricky out there but the greens were superb.
“This afternoon just lot a bit of steam at the end. I’m not used to playing 36 holes in this weather, or 36 full stop. I’d have loved to have won. I gave myself a chance on the last hole and it’s good to be back up the top of the leaderboard again but Heather played really well and I’m happy for her to win.”
WPGA One Day Series leader Alison Nicholas (Beau Desert) finished third on level par after rounds of 73 and 69.