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Australian Stacey Keating came from three shots behind overnight leader Diana Luna of Italy to capture the Lacoste Ladies Open de France at Chantaco Golf Club on Sunday. The 26-year-old from Cressy, Victoria, recorded her second straight win on the Ladies European Tour after she earned her maiden title at the Tenerife Ladies Open de Espana a fortnight previously.
Playing in the penultimate group, Keating was quick out of the blocks with four birdies in a row from the second to catch Luna. The Italian then made four straight birdies from the fifth to get to 15 under but dropped a shot on 10, opening the door again.
After Keating bogeyed the 13th, Luna was two clear of the Australian but Keating birdied 14, 16 and 17 to move one ahead with a hole to play. Keating thought she'd blown it when she bogeyed 18, but then watched Luna do the same, missing a five foot par putt which would have forced a play-off. Heartbroken Luna was forced to settle for her third straight second place finish in three years at the same tournament. Meanwhile, Keating described the feeling as 'surreal.'
She was handed the trophy by Sophie Lacoste, President of Lacoste SA in the presence of the recent victorious European Ryder Cup Captain JosÃ© MarÃa OlazÃ¡bal and former women's world number one Lorena Ochoa.
"Ten years ago my dream was to meet Lorena Ochoa so standing here is unbelievable so thank you to Lorena for playing in this event," said Keating. "I think Europe's win in the Ryder Cup also deserves a round of applause!"
Keating thanked her caddie and boyfriend Darren Peters, who has been at her side since she joined the tour in 2011 and through the disappointment of being disqualified from the Ricoh Women's British Open a month ago, due her to signing for an incorrect score, to the joy of the last three weeks.
"After the disappointment of the British I was really low in confidence, but obviously not now, so I'm very happy. I've been playing well leading up to the British as well so it was just how I was going to handle it mentally as well I guess," Keating said.
"I had no expectations because I was so disappointed and that hurt me a lot. Nothing on the golf course can hurt me like that now."
She said that she enjoyed competing under pressure: "I just enjoy it. I practice so I can be contending. As long as I'm contending I'm happy. Anything can happen in a golf tournament like we saw there. We were both disappointed to bogey the last but you know, that's golf and I'll take that."
A stroke ahead with a hole to play, Keating missed the green with her second shot on 18 and played a skilful chip from a difficult downhill lie to three feet but missed the putt after a loud fire-engine siren went off.
Her final round of six under par 64 left her at 14 under, which proved just enough for the win, after Luna pulled her drive left into a bunker, hit up short of the green and despite playing a terrific chip which hit the hole, missed the returning putt.
Two strokes back in a tie for third place on 11 under par were Hannah Jun of the United States and Spain's Azahara Munoz, while fifth place was shared by former champion Trish Johnson, local player Anne-Lise Caudal and Carlota Ciganda, who moved into first place on the Ladies European Tour's ISPS Handa Order of Merit.
Lorena Ochoa, making a limited return from retirement, finished in a tie for 22nd place on one under par after a final round 70 and said: "I am happy. It was really a good week. I did make a few mistakes and had trouble a little bit on the greens. I was frustrated today, you know, I have to say that, but at the same time, I need to be happy. I am here just to enjoy it. This is more like an exhibition for me.
"I love to see that the European Tour is growing so much. You can see that now it's a really global tour, they play in so many different countries and travel so much and they have players from so many different countries and that's really positive for the game.
"You get fans and sponsors and TV from many different parts of the world and I think you can see the scores are really good. Finishing 13, 14, 15 under, all of those scores are amazing because today, we didn't play an easy course. So I am sure they are going in the right direction and congratulations to them and also it's nice to see that the players get along really good. They travel together, they spend time together. It's important to have friends and enjoy what you do for a living so I want to say that I've been very impressed in a positive way of how well the tour is running and I wish them the best."
This was the last tournament in Europe for the 2012 LET season and the next event is the China Suzhou Taihu Open from October 26-28.
266 - Stacey Keating (AUS) 62 71 69 64
267 - Diana Luna (ITA) 67 64 68 68
269 - Azahara Munoz (ESP) 66 71 66 66, Hannah Jun (USA) 68 68 67 66
270 - Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) 70 65 67 68, Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 68 67 67 68, Trish Johnson (ENG) 69 69 69 63
271 - Nontaya Srisawang (THA) 71 66 69 65
272 - Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) 69 68 66 69
274 - Julie Greciet (FRA) 73 68 66 67