Title glory on home soil is such an honour: Stephanie
Jordanstown ace Stephanie Meadow has revealed that she is honoured to become the first women's winner of the ISPS Handa World Invitational after delighting the home crowd at Galgorm Castle by holding on to lift the trophy.
The 27-year-old was exceptional all week, finishing one shot clear of playing partner Charley Hull on 10-under par to take the title as the inaugural winner of her home event.
It was a lot closer than Meadow would have maybe hoped, with her four-shot overnight lead evaporating following a tough double bogey at the ninth and Hull birdieing the 12th, and the English woman had an eagle putt at the last to force a play-off, only to see it agonisingly stay out.
But that didn't matter for Meadow, whose level-par 73 on the final day saw her over the line with nothing to spare, and she was simply ecstatic to be the one with the trophy at the end.
"It's unbelievable really, I'm so excited and honoured as well. It's very, very special," beamed Meadow, who walks away $40,000 (£33,000) richer.
"I could tell everybody was willing me on and wanted me to do well, and I genuinely didn't want to let everybody down. Thankfully I was able to do that.
"I had my boyfriend, Kyle, on the bag this week so if anybody could keep me calm then it's him. It was nice to share that experience with him."
Meadow had started well, birdieing the second and then playing par golf to maintain her substantial lead, which only grew when nearest challenger Ellie Givens fell away with four bogeys in her first six holes.
But a rare wayward shot saw her flare one right at the ninth, leading to a penalty drop and a double-bogey seven at the par-five. That allowed Hull to capitalise with a birdie, and when the Solheim Cup player added a birdie with a 30ft putt at the 12th, the gap was two.
Despite the wobble, Meadow steadied the ship well by returning to par golf, and her three-shot lead was restored when Hull uncharacteristically bogeyed the 16th with a three-putt.
The Northern Ireland girl then wobbled again with a bogey at the 17th, though, and when Hull parred and then fired a beautiful approach to five feet on the last for eagle, it looked like a play-off was on the cards.
But, amazingly, Hull could not convert her putt, pushing it right of the hole, and when Meadow duly converted for par, the title was hers for her second professional win, one which she hopes will pay dividends down the line.
"It's been a long journey up and down but this win will give me a lot of confidence. It's a pity it didn't matter on the LPGA, I wish it did!" laughed Meadow.
"I've still got a bit of work to do to maintain my card out there but hopefully I can take this win and use it as momentum. I played against Charley Hull who's one of the best players in the world, so if I can do it against her then I can do it out there as well."
Runner-up Hull was left to rue her missed chance but she was happy with how her week progressed due to it being her fourth event in as many weeks.
The three-time Tour winner admitted she was mentally fatigued earlier in the week but was pleased overall that she nearly forced a play-off.
"I still haven't played great all week but I managed to make a score of it so I'm really happy. This week has been good though," said Hull.
With Meadow crowned the champion, the Bridgestone Award for the best Irish woman in the field went to the next best finisher, Cavan's Leona Maguire on five-under par.
The Slieve Russell golfer had a tough day but battled back from two bogeys and a double bogey in her first seven holes with three birdies on the back nine to finish at level par for the day and tied-sixth for the tournament.
"It has been a good week. I still finished under par for the four days and I battled quite well with nowhere near my best stuff," admitted Maguire.
Castlewarden ace Lauren Walsh won the best amateur prize after a two-under 71 in her final round, giving her a tie for eighth at four-under par.
Of the other notable names, Norway's Marianne Skarpnord was five-under, Scotland's Carly Booth was three-under, Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew was level-par and English star Meghan MacLaren was one-over.