‘I’ve been waiting for this for a while’: Teenage dream comes true as Pia Babnik, 17, wins Jabra Ladies Open
Phil Mickelson might not agree, but it increasingly seems as if golf is a young woman’s game. For the second successive week, the Ladies European Tour hailed a winner who is still of school age, while at the US Women’s Open two in the top four at the halfway point were also teenagers.
At the famous Evian Resort overlooking Lake Geneva, 17-year-old Pia Babnik beat England’s Annabel Dimmock in a play-off in the Jabra Ladies Open and it says so much about the Slovenian’s immense potential that many experts believe this success was overdue and Babnik herself said: “I’ve been waiting for this for a while.”
Babnik is the youngest player on the LET, having joined last year as a 16-year-old. She almost qualified for the major taking place this week in San Francisco, but instead took her frustration out on her peers on her home circuit.
Dimmock, the defending champion, is only 24 but must have felt like a veteran in the shootout. She bravely birdied the 18th to force sudden death, but Babnik, who birdied the last two holes in regulation for a 70 and a total 209, prevailed at the first extra hole.
“I feel amazing,” Babnik said. “I’ve dreamt about this for a long time, I work really hard and I’m really happy it paid off.” Thanks to this victory, Babnik will not be missing the next major. This win – on just her 12th LET start –booked her place at next month’s Evian Championship, at the same location. “I’ve played the Junior Evian Championship before, so I’ve been at the event and watched it live and I’m really excited,” Babnik said.
After a dreadful start during which Babnik suffered double-bogeys at the opening two holes she showed her maturity by rolling in consecutive birdies on the fourth and fifth. A further three birdies on the back nine underlined her class.
It was a difficult day for Lucie Malchirand, who shot a 77 to fall out of contention. But still the French 18-year-old can reflect on a remarkable seven days. She won the Italian Ladies Open last weekend as an amateur, turned professional during the week before shooting a 69 in her first round in the paid ranks.
Big things are inevitably expected of both Babnik and Malchirand and events across the Atlantic will only give the pair yet more confidence of what is possible even at such a tender age.
In the third round of the second female major of the year, Yuka Saso, the 19-year-old from the Philippines, went out with a one-shot lead over 2019 US Women’s Open champion, Jeongeun Lee6.
Her brilliant second-round 67 gave her the honour of becoming the first teenager to lead the US Women’s Open after 36 holes since 2008. Justin Ray, the renowned statistician who works for Twenty First Group, revealed a remarkable, if slightly eerie fact.
If Saso is to win she would be aged 19 days, 11 months, 17 days. When Inbee Park won in 2008 to become the youngest ever US Women’s Open winner, she was aged 19 days, 11 months, 17 days.
It was the second day on which a teenager had captured the headlines at the Olympic Club. Amateur Megha Ganne, 17, from New Jersey, shared the first-round lead on four-under and was in a tie for third going into the third round.