Sophie Gustafson shot a superb final-round 66 Sunday to win a thrilling AIB Ladies Irish Open by a single shot at Killeen Castle. The Ladies European Tour event is significant because it was played on the course that will host the 2011 Solheim Cup.
The Swede took advantage of perfect scoring conditions to finish the tournament on 12 under par and edge ahead of Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord and South Korean In-kyung Kim.
Victory enhanced the 36-year-old's prospects of returning to Killeen Castle in September 2011 as part of Europe's Solheim Cup team.
It is the fourth time Gustafson has won the Irish Open and sixth success overall on Irish soil.
"I love Ireland. This is my sixth win in Ireland if you count the time I won in Northern Ireland in 2003 and at the World Cup in 2000," said Gustafson. "I think maybe it's the people. They are all very friendly and easy going and they have always been very supportive of me."
Gustafson's birdie on the final hole proved crucial with Kim, playing in the group behind, unable to match it to force a playoff.
"Being able to make that putt was fantastic because I've been struggling with my putting, so that was very, very nice," Gustafson added. "I think I've been playing better than my recent results have shown, so that was very pleasing being able to play so well."
England's Melissa Reid finished two shots back after a 66.
Ireland's Rebecca Coakley ended with a 69 for 4 under par, while England's Georgina Simpson was a shot further back with Welsh duo Becky Morgan and Becky Brewerton both 2 under for the tournament.
Among the Americans in the field and getting a look at the Solheim Cup venue were: Brittany Lang (-7, seventh); Brittany Lincicome (-6, tied for eighth); Christina Kim (-5, tied for 12th); Angela Stanford (-3, tied for 19th); Kristy McPherson (-1, tied for 29th); Mollie Fankhauser (+1, tied for 36th); Beth Allen (+3, tied for 43rd); Alison Walshe (+5 tied for 53rd); and Mallory Blackwelder (+7, tied for 60th).
And among other LPGA Tour regulars with hopes of making the European Solheim Cup team were Anna Nordqvist (-8, sixth); Helen Alfredsson (-6, tied for eighth); Maria Hjorth (-5, tied for 12th); Suzann Pettersen (-2, tied for 23rd); Laura Davies (-1, tied for 29th); Catriona Matthew (+2, tied for 40th); and Carin Koch (+4, tied for 49th).