Spanish Nuria Iturrios joined a rare band of back-to-back Ladies European Tour winners by claiming the inaugural OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic, the world’s first ever professional day-night golf tournament, just five days after winning the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
Iturrios secured her third LET title with rounds of 68, 67 and 71 for a total of 10-under-par 206 on the renowned Faldo Course at Emirates Golf Club, where course designer Sir Nick Faldo made floodlights an integral part of the design.
The 23-year-old from Palma de Mallorca finished one stroke ahead of German pair Esther Henseleit and Olivia Cowan, with fellow German Karolin Lampert a shot further back in fourth place.
“It’s amazing to win again and I’m so excited,” said Iturrios, who became the first player to capture consecutive titles since Aditi Ashok at the Indian and Qatar Opens in 2016. “Congratulations to Esther, Olivia and every player in the field. It was so cool. I loved playing in the first day-night tournament and I hope to come back next year.”
The LET order of merit leader began the final round tied for the lead with Henseleit, but the rookie professional admitted to feeling the pressure on the first tee as she contended for her first title.
Iturrios birdied the second and third holes to quickly build a three stroke lead, but bogeyed the sixth and then dropped into a share of the lead with Ireland’s Leona Maguire after a double on the seventh, where she found the water off the tee. However, she regained the outright lead at the turn by rolling in a simple birdie putt on the ninth green. She birdied the 10th, but then three-putted the 11th before picking up another shot at the 14th.
She came to the last with a one stroke lead and both Henseleit and Cowan had birdie putts to force a play-off, but Iturrios two putted from eight metres to earn the title, an Omega watch and the famous Dallah trophy, as well as Life Membership of Emirates Golf Club.
While Iturrios moved further ahead on the order of merit and jumped to fifth on the European Solheim Cup team points list, from which the top three players will qualify following the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, Henseleit moved further ahead in the Rookie of the Year race, advancing to fifth on the Order of Merit with five top 10s from six starts during the 2019 season.
Reflecting on her performance, the 20-year-old from Hamburg said: “Before we started, I wasn’t really nervous, but when the first tee came, my hands were shaking a bit and the first holes were quite hard for me. I also made two bogeys and then a triple bogey on eight and was five-over, so I thought, okay, that’s it for today.
“I just tried to focus on my rhythm and my swing. I made a good birdie on 10 and felt better again and then nearly holed out with my driver on the 13th, which was great. Suddenly I was only two back and then I sadly had a three putt on 14 or 15 but then I made birdie, birdie and hit a good tee shot into 18 but the putt wasn’t like I thought. I thought it would break a little less. Nevertheless, it’s always good to play in the last group and get used to it and next time maybe I won’t be as nervous and can play well from the start.”
Cowan, 23, from Hamburg, was also disappointed to miss out on her first LET title and commented: “I’m gutted that I didn’t finish it and didn’t win. It was very close and intense all day and I think I was a bit nervous at the start, because I missed a few stupid shots and made some ridiculous mistakes.
“All in all, it was a really good week and I can be proud of myself. I think the tournament was great and we should have it again. It’s always great to come back to Dubai and they put on an amazing event every single year. I thought it was cool finishing under the lights and a great event.”
Playing under the lights proved to be a popular innovation with players and fans alike, while the event showcased what an incredible destination Dubai has become with an extended golfing season each year.