Women’s golf has a new star after 16-year-old Chiara Noja beat her idol, England’s Charley Hull, to win her first Ladies European Tour title at the Aramco Team Series Jeddah.
The German schoolgirl shot a brilliant final round of 65 to finish tied with Hull on 13 under par and then made back-to-back birdies to win the play-off on Saturday at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
“I don’t think it has sunk in quite yet,” said Noja, who was playing on an invitation from organisers of the $1m tournament.
“Before we went out, my dad showed Charley a picture of me with her as a 10-year-old. It’s like a full circle, it’s a blessing.
“I’ve worked hard over a lot of years now to be able to not back out of shots and commit to everything that I do and not be afraid to fail.”
Noja’s 65 was the equal lowest round of the week and featured seven birdies and an eagle at the par-five fourth hole.
Hull birdied four of her last six holes to sign for a 68 but it was her opponent, 10 years her junior, who took her chances in the play-off.
The teenager, who was born in Berlin, moved to England when she was seven and now lives in Dubai, turned professional at 15 and is in her rookie year on the Ladies European Tour.
“I have no clue what the plan is next. I can’t even begin to fathom it,” added Noja, who banked $75,000 in prize money. “I’m just going to try and relax, maybe have a burger and sleep – probably the best night sleep I’m ever going to get – and see how I feel.”
South Africa’s Nicole Garcia capped a fine week by making an eagle at the last to take outright third place on 12 under par.
On Friday, Garcia became the first player to achieve multiple wins as captain in the team competition of Aramco Team Series events.
Her quartet, which also included compatriot Casandra Alexander, Tereza Melecka, and amateur Sonia Bayahya, claimed the title after a play-off with Christine Wolf’s team.
Alexander sealed the win with a birdie at the first extra hole and Garcia said: “Cassandra and I have known each other for a long time and we’d spoken before we even knew we were in the play-off that she was in, so it was already decided.”
Alexander added: “It was a bit nerve-wracking but I kind of knew what I was going to have from previous rounds so I went to the range and hit a couple of that shot beforehand. I hit a 7-iron, and it was enough to get the job done.”