'I'm so proud to be from here': Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow holds off Charley Hull challenge to win the ISPS Handa World Invitational
Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow has thrilled the home support by winning the women's tournament at the inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational.
The 27-year-old managed to hold off the challenge of European Solheim Cup star Charley Hull in a thrilling finish on the 18th green at Galgorm.
Meadow led since the midway point and really put herself in the box seat with a six under par 67 on a rain-interrupted third day's play on Saturday.
That gave the Jordanstown woman a four shot lead going into Sunday's final round. That advantage, however, had been more than halved by the turn, Meadow's double-bogey on the ninth compounded by Hull's birdie to bring the gap down to just two shot.
Meadow showed tremendous composure to bounce back with back-to-back birdies, but Hull wasn't going to give up, picking up shots at 11 and 12 to get to -9 and just two back.
Meadow held her ground with five consecutive pars and that proved enough to open a three shot gap with just two holes to play as Hull dropped a shot at the par four 16th.
However, late drama was to follow when Meadow dropped a shot at the 17th to go back to -10 for the week.
Needing to pick up two on Meadow on the par five 18th, Hull hit two top-class shots to within 10 feet for eagle.
When Meadow's longer birdie putt slid past, Hull had a putt to force a play-off.
"When Charley hit a three-wood into six-feet, my heart was pounding," smiled Meadow. "I just didn't want to let it go. I had been in the lead all day and I knew so many people were supporting me so I didn't want to let anybody down.
"That home pressure can definitely affect you, I was shaking over that two-footer.
"It's pretty amazing to say the least. Watching the Open and Shane winning inspired me. I can't believe winning anywhere else would be more special. I just want to say a quick thank-you to everyone who came out. I felt a tremendous support all week and I'm really proud to be from here."
Lauren Walsh, an amateur from Kildare, and Leona Maguire finished in a tie for seventh on four under par.
However, she couldn't convert as her putt also missed on the left edge, Meadow tidying up from close range to win.
In the men's event, it took two tie holes to separate Englishmen Jack Senior and Matthew Baldin, who had holed a 20-foot birdie putt to reach 11-under par and force a play-off. Senior eventually came out on top with a birdie on the second play-off hole and the first had been halved in pars.
The leading Irishman was Cormac Sharvin, who came in tied 21st on two under par.
The men and the women were playing for equal prize of $250k for each field, a first for golf in Europe.
"It's fantastic," said Meadow. "We can all play and hopefully a lot of people saw this week that the girls can play as well and they were impressed.
"Modest! Golf and ISPS Handa; thanks for believing in us and in equal pay."
Belfast Telegraph Digital