Coulter a champion in defeat
 Our Lady & St Patricks College Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) en route to victory in the 2017 Irish Schools Senior & Junior Cup Finals at Milltown. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Our Lady & St Patricks College Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) en route to victory in the 2017 Irish Schools Senior & Junior Cup Finals at Milltown. Picture by Pat Cashman

Beth Coulter might have taken eight at the last to lose out in the inaugural Girls Under 16 Open Championship but she was a winner in the way she handled her disappointment.

The 14-year old Kirkistown Castle Coulter had looked set for a wire-to-wire victory at Fulford in York when she led by a stroke with the par-5 18th to play, only to go out of bounds after her second shot hit a tree, leading to a triple bogey.

Scotland’s Hannah Darling had holed a 40 footer for birdie in the match immediately in front to card a two-under 72 to set the clubhouse target at four-under 218

 Hannah Darling. Picture: The R and A

Hannah Darling. Picture: The R and A

Coulter held a two-shot lead from Finland’s Kerttu Hiltunen and Switzerland’s Elena Moosmann on six-under-par overnight and while she went out in two over, she eagled the 11th and birdied the 14th to head down the stretch with the lead.

Darling finished strongly and while Coulter bogeyed the 15th and 16th to see her lead reduced to one before coming expensively unstuck on the last, she vowed to learn from the experience and congratulated the winner.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster all the way round,” said Beth, who finished second on two under after a 78 and also claimed the Under 14 prize. 

"Coming down the last, I wasn’t scoreboard watching so I didn’t know how Hannah was doing. I was actually standing over the ball and said ‘don’t hit the tree and go out of bounds’ and that’s exactly what I did. 

"It was maybe a wee bit too risky, I should have played out for par. I’ve just got to learn from it and get on with it. It was one shot.
 
“But very well done to Hannah, she deserved it, she played very well today. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for me. I’ve only been playing competitively for three years so it was a great learning experience this week."

Darling had applied the pressure after a closing two-under-par round of 72, only one of two players to post a score under-par on a breezy final day, had given her the clubhouse lead on a total of four-under-par.

In challenging conditions, the 14-year-old fired four birdies in the last ten holes to make a surge up the leaderboard.

The Broomieknowe player looked on as Coulter’s hopes ended in disappointment and she now has a championship win to go with the three domestic titles she claimed in 2017.

“I’m so happy,” Darling said. "All the Scottish squad members are here, so I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had good performances in the last few weeks but to come here and win is so good.

“I dropped some early shots but it was great to fight back and almost make an eagle on the 11th. I was very happy with the 18th, hit a really good putt from over 40 foot for birdie. 

“I felt for Beth at the last when she went out of bounds. It’s not nice to see a competitor do that, especially one you are quite close to on the leaderboard.

“The competition has been amazing. The R&A have done an amazing job as have Fulford Golf Club and the green staff to keep the course in such good condition. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

It was also a good week for the other three Irish competitors with Woodstock’s Aine Donegan 13th, Old Conna’s Lucia Madsing 35th and Tramore’s Anna Dawson 67th in the historic first edition of the new championship.

Girls Under 16 Open Championship, Fulford (Par 74)

Detailed scores

1, H Darling (Sco) 74 72 72 218; 
2, Beth Coulter (Kirkistown Castle) 69 73 78 220; 
3, E Moosnamn (Swi) 76 69 77 222; 
4, F Tynan (Wa;) 71 76 76 223; 
5, K Hiltunen (Fin) 74 70 79 223; 
6, R Gyllner (Swe) 76 75 73 224; 
7, E Gower (Eng) 74 75 75 224; 
8, C Cattaneo (Ita) 75 72 77 224; 
9, E Fagersten (Swe) 76 74 75 225; 
10 C Whitehead (Eng) 78 74 74 226.

Other Irish

13, Aine Donegan (Woodstock) 77 72 78 227; 
35, Lucia
Madsing (Old Conna) 81 79 79 239; 
67, Anna Dawson (Tramore) 78 91 81 250.