01 Jun 18
A new name will be engraved on the silver salver presented to the winner of the Titleist & Footjoy WPGA Championship but spelling it correctly may be as challenging as the circumstances in which she clinched victory.
The name belongs to Keely Chiericato and her triumph in an absorbing contest at Trentham Golf Club was a classic case of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Having seen her score from two rounds of the Staffordshire venue decline from a healthy four-under to a sickly looking one-under, Chiericato was convinced her chance of victory was in ruins.
Not least because Heather MacRae, a seasoned and talented campaigner, was one-under with four holes to play.
One of those, the par-five 18th on a picturesque course in pristine condition, represented a realistic birdie opportunity, especially for the Scot who launches the ball prodigious distances.
It all added up to dousing the joy Chiericato experienced when her nine-iron on the par-three fourth skipped into the cup for her first hole-in-one in a professional event.
Played out to the accompaniment of thunder rumbling in the distance, it was as though the end of the world had arrived for the tearful PGA Professional with Italian antecedents who is attached to Manston Golf Centre in Kent.
In the event, MacRae’s birdie putt on the 18th (below) stopped a whisker away from dropping and Chiericato was in the second chance saloon - a play-off.
Worse followed for MacRae at the initial extra hole, the par-four first, when her approach clipped some leaves and fell well short of the green.
Chiericato, by contrast, had found the putting surface and when her opponent failed to capitalise on a superb chip to within six feet the silver salver and £1,000 winner’s cheque was hers.
So, too, was her first step towards making the WPGA Cup team that will play in Texas next year.
Places in the team will be determined by performances in this and next year’s WPGA Championship and, by winning, Chiericato has earned 10 of the possible 25 points she can accumulate.
“I’d forgotten about that to start with,” she admitted afterwards. “Strangely enough I played in a South region event yesterday and Sam Smith, the regional manager, told me to make sure I’d play well so I could get in the team for Texas. If the dates are good, I’d love to go out there and help bring the trophy home.”
Teamwork, of course, will be paramount for the five-strong WPGA Great Britain and Ireland line-up to be successful in Texas and Chiericato felt the benefit of it at Trentham.
“The unexpected hole-in-one helped my scorecard,” she added. “I was four-under and playing nicely but, if anyone tells you nerves don’t get to you, they’re wrong. I hit some shots I’d never otherwise hit in that situation.
“And without the support of my playing partners today, I would have struggled even more. I was lucky to have two really nice and supportive people – Ali Gray (above) and Claire Hobbs – alongside me. They kept cheering me on, so did their caddies.
“But I did expect Heather to grab the win, she’s a very good player. So it was nice to have the second opportunity – things don’t happen like that very often and I was lucky to get my second chance.”
Leading scores: K Chiericato (Manston Golf Centre) 145 (-1), H MacRae (Elite Golf Academy) 145 (-1); A Gray (Ormskirk Golf Club) and M Tulley (Piltdown Golf Club) 147 (+1).
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