Malaysia's Ashley Lau added a huge win to her already impressive Australian summer at the 2024 Vic Open, preventing former world No.1 Jiyai Shin from becoming the first woman to successfully defend the title.
In tremendous form after a second and an eighth in the previous two Webex Players Series events, Lau produced the low round of Sunday in the women’s Open, a 6-under-par 66, including seven birdies, to beat Shin by a shot.
A clutch birdie on the par-5 18th gave the University of Michigan graduate the clubhouse lead at 12-under, and after Korea's Jeongmin Cho dropped a couple of shots late, Shin was the only player that could match her total.
Needing a birdie on 18 to force a playoff, Shin hit it in the one place she couldn't off the tee - the right fairway bunker - Lau surely thinking she had one hand on the trophy.
The "Sunday Queen" wasn't going down without a fight though, with 3-wood left in for her third, Shin worked her ball expertly left to right, leaving a 10-metre putt to the back right pin position. The chance to level was on.
A professional for just over a year, Lau waited on the putting green behind the clubhouse while Shin putted, well away and out of sight from the 18th green.
The sound of the crowd was the only indicator Lau had that she might be the champion as the two-time major champion's putt caught the right edge and lipped out.
"I said ‘you know I can't do this, I'm super nervous, I've never felt this nervous before', so I went and took a walk and talked to my friend for a little bit," Lau said of the nerve-racking wait for Shin to finish.
“When the news came in that I’d won, I started crying.
“I came down here just to prepare for the upcoming Epson Tour. This is a big confidence boost.”
Being Down Under has cleared suited Lau but it hasn’t been completely foreign territory with the now 23-year-old having completed the final two years of high school at Hills International School in Queensland, the very same school that boasts major winner Jason Day as a proud alumnus.
"Australia holds such a special place in my heart," she said with two arms around the Vic Open trophy.
Defending champion Shin said the pressure of attempting to become the first woman to go back-to-back at the Vic Open may have got to her today.
"I just kept saying to myself 'make new history, make new history', but maybe too much pressure.
"I'm still smiling because I did all my best."
A great supporter of Australian golf, Shin is a frequent returner each summer, and a great advocate and role model for the young golfers who look up to her across the world.
"I love to play in Australia," she said.
"I introduce many Asian players to Australia so they know how cool the tournaments here in Australia are."
Overnight co-leader Karis Davidson (73) struggled to keep up with the scoring on the final day, the Queenslander slipping into a tie for fifth at 7-under, alongside Sarah Jane Smith who had 71 today.
Last year's runner-up Cassie Porter shrugged off a slow opening two rounds to finish strongly, playing the weekend in 8-under to finish solo ninth.
Australian great Karrie Webb followed up her third round 67 with a 2-under 70 to finish her tournament comeback in positive fashion in a tie for 11th.