Sunday, May 29, 2016

Vive La France! Wonder girl Pauline (15) wins 

St Rule Trophy as French scoop the prizes

 French polish. The winnng team, left to right, of Chloe Salort, Anais Meyssonier, and the individual champion, young Pauline Roussin-Bouchard. Picture byJudy Aitken.

It's a mouthful, but remember the name: Pauline Roussin-Bouchard! The 15-year-old from Valescure in southern France became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious St Rule Trophy at St Andrews today with a 13-under-par total of 213 - three shots better than last year's winner Aditi Ashok and the same total as play-off winner Jess Meek in 2014.

A stripling of a girl, Pauline was also the first French-born winner of a tournament which was first played in 1984. French players have gone close, very close to winning at St Andrews in the past but never quite made it until Roussin-Bouchard showed them how this weekend. 
Although her mother (who was quite laid back about it all) said she thought Pauline was a "bit nervy" on the first tee, it didn't show then or later to neutral observers.
The talented golfing girl from Valescure  made almost all the running with rounds of 68 and 71 over the New Course on Saturday and a two-under-par 74 as a south-east wind rose on a sunny  Sunday afternoon and added a shot or two, maybe more,  to the degree of difficulty of the Old Course's inward half.
Pauline won the European Young Masters last year at the age of 14 and has a string of successes in her home country and abroad.
"I have never been to St Andrews before but I had heard a lot about it and I have enjoyed coming to Scotland," said Pauline  in perfect English. 
She is No 53 in the Women's World Rankings and No 3 in the French women's domestic rankings.
"I want to be a professional and I am going to be one as soon as I am 18," said Roussin-Bouchard who also won the Lawson Trophy for the best performance by an Under-18 girl in the St Rule Trophy tournament.
With a golfing CV like hers, Pauline could pick any US college she wants at 18 but that is not the way she wants to go.
In her final round, Pauline birdied the second, fourth, ninth and 13th. She bogeyed the sixth and 12th in halves of 36 (two under) and 38 (level par).
Roussin-Bouchard led by two from compatriot Anais Meyssonnier after the Saturday rounds over the New Course  and they both reached the turn on the Old Course in two-under-par 36.
The last nine holes from mid-afternoon were the most difficult of the weekend with a chilly south easterly wind blowing in their faces. You can assess how difficult it became for the later starters by the inward half of Rotherham's Olivia Winning who won the Helen Holm Scottish stroke-play title last month for a second time.
She took 36 strokes (two under par) for the front nine today and then a nightmare 45 shots to come home for an 81 (total 225) after New Course rounds of 74 and 70 had her on the fringe of a possible last-day charge.
So that explains why Pauline could conjure up only one more birdie on the back nine, at the 13th, after dropping a shot at the 12th.
That left "la porte" open for Anais and she raised her game in the tough wind with birdies at the 10th, 13th and 14th, offset by a bogey at the 11th.
That was enough for the momentum to have passed to Meyssonnier who was sharing the lead on the 16th tee.
At that point, the odds were very much on a play-off being necessary to separate the front-running French girls (the best of pals, by the way). But Meyssonnier made a very costly mistake at the 16th - a bogey which knocked her back to 12 under par, trailing again by one with two to play.
They matched each other's pars at the last two holes with Meyssonnier finishing with a 73 (36-37) which included six birdies and three bogeys, and Roussin-Bouchard with a 74 (36-38) with four birdies and two bogeys.
France (Roussin-Bouchard, Meyssonnier and Chloe Salort) won the international team trophy by nine strokes from Scotland (Connie Jaffrey, Jess Meek and Heather Munro) who tied with England (Gemma Clews, Bethan Popel and Olivia Winning) for second place.
Eilidh Briggs (Kilmacolm) and local girl Lauren Whyte (Regulus) tied for third place on 216, three behind the winner and two  adrift of the runner-up.
Eilidh, who missed most of last season with injury, shot 74, 68 and 74, while Lauren, a student at Baylor University, Texas, reeled off three 72s in her best performance at this high level for a year or two. 
Connie Jaffrey (Troon Ladies) tied for eighth place on seven-under 219 after an outward half of five-under 33 over the Old Course had her lying joint third with nine holes to play. But she took two-over 40 shots to come home for a 73. Still, she might have run into a bit of form just in time for the Scottish women's championship at West Kilbride this week. She was beaten by Gabrielle Macdonald in the final at Prestwick two or three years back.
Runner-up Anais Meyssonnier is second from the left and champion Pauline Roussin-Bouchard is second from the right, flanked by the chief organising St Rule Club officials. Pictures by courtesy of Judy Aitken.
 Val Donaldson, St Rule Club captain, centre, presented the prizes.  Barbara Grounds, St Rule Club secretary, is on extreme left and Ellie Wilson (competition organiser) is on extreme right.