By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 16/03/19 6:16pm
Teenager Diksha Dagar claimed an inspirational one-shot victory over home favourite Lee-Anne Pace in a thrilling finish to the Investec South African Women’s Open.
The 19-year-old Ladies European Tour rookie, who has a hearing defect that requires her to use a cochlear implant, closed with a three-under 69 which included a superb chip-in for birdie at the 16th that would ultimately earn her a first career title with a winning score of five under par.
Pace was firmly on course for her 10th LET victory, and her first since winning her home Open in 2014, as she enjoyed a three-stroke lead with just six to play, but the 38-year-old faltered down the stretch and dropped shots at the 13th and 17th while Dagar defied the pressure to keep a bogey off her card.
Dagar, whose hearing aids used to malfunction when playing in humid conditions, was a model of composure as she covered the first 14 holes with 13 pars and a lone birdie at the eighth, and she then ramped up the pressure on Pace with another gain at the 15th.
She then faced a tricky up-and-down to save par at the 16th after her approach came up short of the green, but Dagar judged the chip to perfection and found the bottom of the cup for a bonus birdie which lifted her into a share of the lead.
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The former World Deaf Championship winner held her nerve to negotiate the final two holes in par to claim the clubhouse lead, and she was soon celebrating a memorable win when Pace narrowly failed to save par at the penultimate hole and was unable to make the birdie she required to force a play-off at the last.
“I just went out today trying to play my normal game,” said Dagar, who was born deaf and was watched closely during the first round by hearing-impaired children from the South African Disabled Golf Association.
“I really didn’t expect to win, but it happened and I am very happy. I got two lucky breaks towards the end, with a long birdie putt on 15 and then the chip-in on 16. Normally I would just try to chip it close and make the par putt, but this time I had a feeling I could do it and it went in.”
The win lifted the teenager to fourth in the LET Order of Merit, and she added: “My goal for the rest of the season is to just stay focused and take each tournament as it comes.”
A disappointed Pace said: “Diksha played great and didn’t make a mistake the whole day. I knew that I had to make birdies to win and unfortunately I left one short at 16 and then missed a par putt at 17. I’m not too disappointed because I played great golf, but I made two mistakes and they cost me the tournament.”