LYTHAM ST ANNES • England's Georgia Hall used to imagine as a young girl she was putting to win the Women's British Open - on Sunday that fantasy became a reality as she showed grit and a steely nerve to win her first Major at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
With her father Wayne acting as her caddie, the 22-year-old came from a shot behind overnight leader Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand to fire a sublime final round of five-under 67 for a 17-under total to clinch the victory and the US$490,000 (S$670,000) winner's cheque.
Over the 72 holes, Hall made only three bogeys and her six-birdie final round secured a two-shot victory over Pornanong.
"This is too good to be true," she said. "When I was nine years old, I used to say, 'This (putt) for the British Open', and to have that experience today was just unbelievable."
Hall, whose first name is in honour of the American state that hosts the Masters at Augusta, had won only twice previously since turning professional in 2014 - as a rookie on the Ladies European Tour Access Series and at the 2016 Victorian Open in Australia.
She played with the type of relentless consistency for which Nick Faldo - who won the 1996 Masters in the year Hall was born - was famous for, and staged a great back-nine charge with three birdies in four holes from the 13th.
Her 25-footer at the 16th earned her the lead over Pornanong for the first time. The Thai then double-bogeyed the 17th after driving into a fairway bunker.
Hall is the first British winner since Scotland's Catriona Matthew, also at Lytham in 2009, and joins Laura Davies, who has four, Alison Nicholas (1997 US Women's Open) and Karen Stupples (2004 British Open) as English winners of a women's Major.
"It was almost like matchplay at the end, and I enjoy that sort of golf," added Hall, who was buoyed by a supportive overnight text from Tom Lehman, winner of the 1996 British Open at Lytham.
"Being able to hit these shots under pressure felt so good and to have six birdies in the final round of a Major isn't bad, is it?
"It's wonderful to join the list of British Major winners. I've always joked by saying I haven't really won since turning pro and a Major will be my first win and I can't believe it's actually true."
It was also an emotional win as her grandfather is not well. Struggling to hold back the tears at the presentation, Hall said: "This is for you, Grandad."
Pornanong closed with a 70 for 15 under. South Korea's Ryu So-yeon was third on 13 under after a 70.
"I got a lot of experience, and just very nervous today," said the 28-year-old Pornanong, as reported by The Nation. "More confidence after this week, but I will fix my swing a little bit."
Fellow Thai Atthaya Thitikul was the only amateur to make the cut, and her reward was to win the Smyth Salver. The 15-year-old closed with a 77 for a 12-over total.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE