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Carlota Ciganda has created history by becoming the first Ladies European Tour player since Laura Davies 27 years ago to claim the ISPS Handa Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. The 22-year-old from Pamplona achieved the feat after a phenomenal first full season on the LET, in which she won two tournaments and recorded (nine) additional top 10 finishes.
She became only the third Spanish player to win the Order of Merit, exactly 10 years after the last Spanish winner of the title, Paula Marti, in 2002.
Ciganda led the race to become the LET's leading money winner for 2012 going into the year-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and was naturally thrilled to hold off the challenge of second placed Caroline Masson, from Germany, thereby securing a â‚¬20,000 bonus and 10 year exemption to the LET.
She said: "It's an honour to win the ISPS Handa Order of Merit as a rookie and I'm very happy. It's a real privilege to follow Laura Davies in achieving this rare double. I played with her a lot this year and I think it was very good for me because I learned so many things. She's so talented and I think she's one of the best players of all time in golf.
"I've won two amazing tournaments in Holland and China and that was great. I've been playing all over and I'm playing and having fun. It's been a very good year. Hopefully I can win many more titles in the future."
Born in Pamplona in 1990, Ciganda showed huge promise from an early age and won virtually every title possible as an amateur, including the 2007 British Amateur Championship and the European Championship in 2004 and 2008.
She turned professional in May 2011 and was invited to play in several professional tournaments before finishing third at the LET's Tour School for the 2012 season.
She demonstrated her enormous talent by winning her first LET title, the Deloitte Ladies Open, at Broekpolder Golf Club in Rotterdam in June.
She then romped to a seven stroke victory with a tournament record 17 under par in the China Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in October, going one stroke better world no.1 Yani Tseng's winning total the previous year.
Ciganda follows one of European golf's greatest names in securing both ISPS Handa Order of Merit and leading rookie honours in the same season.
Interestingly, she and Davies competed alongside each other in many Ladies European Tour events throughout 2012 and Ciganda claimed to have learned a great deal.
ISPS Handa Ambassador Davies commented: "When you have the talent that Carlota has got, you can take that a long way and that's what she's doing. I've played with her a lot this year and she's very impressive."
ISPS HANDA Chairman Dr Haruhisa Handa said: "I offer my warmest congratulations to Carlota Ciganda for such an outstanding accomplishment in winning both the ISPS HANDA Order of Merit and the Rookie of The Year title. We are delighted that the inaugural year of the ISPS HANDA Order of Merit has been marked with such an inspirational and rare achievement. Carlota's performance in 2013 utterly reinforces our belief that sport has the power to inspire, create hope and have a positive impact on society. We also pass on our gratitude to all Ladies European Tour members for their support for the ISPS HANDA PGA Academy Programme, our blind and disabled golf coaching initiative, and their wholehearted commitment to our mission for golf to become a Paralympic Sport."
Alexandra Armas, Executive Director of the Ladies European Tour, said: "We congratulate Carlota on her exceptional season crowned by becoming the first player in 27 years to win the prestigious ISPS Handa Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year titles simultaneously.
"Carlota followed her success as an amateur through from her junior days in Spain to college golf in the United States and now in the professional ranks by gaining victories firstly on the LET Access Series and then twice on the Ladies European Tour. This certainly caps a magnificent year and will go down in the history books as one of the most outstanding achievements of any player in the 34-year history of the Tour."
Ciganda will now re-assess her objectives for the 2013 season when she will have the opportunity to play in Europe and the United States of America, with a place on The European Solheim Cup Team in Colorado amongst her goals.
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