La Manga, Spain: Sharmila Nicollet became the youngest Indian to qualify for the Ladies European Tour as she clinched the 30th and final spot with a six foot birdie. It may well be the start of stardom for the young 20-year-old Bangalore golfer.
Co-leader after the first round and second after the second, Sharmila endured some tense moments, as she birdied from six feet on the third play-off hole of the Qualifiers at the South Course.
The tall and good-looking Sharmila becomes the youngest Indian and only the second after Smriti Mehra to earn a full card on the Ladies European Tour. Smriti did it in the mid-1990s.
In what was easily the most testing time of her career, Sharmila played 165 holes, nine rounds and three holes in play-off, in 12 days.
"I am so excited but ready to fall off," said an excited Sharmila.
On the third play-off hole, Sharmila had two putts for a birdie four from the right edge of the ninth green at the par-5 ninth hole.
She nailed the final six-footer for a birdie and sealed the 30th and final card for the 2012 Ladies European Tour.
"My goal was to get on the tour and this is my first time in Spain for the qualifier so I think it's a big achievement for me. To be playing in Europe will be my next immediate goal.
"I hope to play all the tournaments and maybe move here because I have family in Paris and my dad stays there so maybe I will move there and play all the tournaments," added Sharmila, whose father is French and mother Indian.
"I'm just so happy and excited. It's been a long two weeks and it's been a long wait and fingers crossed for the season. I'd like to win a European Tour event and maybe emulate someone like Yani (Tseng) or Caroline (Hedwall) by being the first rookie, who won four tournaments.
"If I could just win one tournament; that would be my goal. I think the whole of India is behind me and had a lot of expectations."
The Final stage was won by Jodi Ewart (73) who finished at 11-under. She was followed by Anais Maggetti (71) at nine-under and Carlota Ciganda (73) was third at four-under.
Sharmila, who shot a final round of two-over 75 on the par-73 South Course, had a heart-wrenching time. After starting on the tenth she was one-under for the first nine and placed tied 16th at that stage.
Bogeys on second, fourth, fifth and seventh almost derailed her campaign, which began last week in the pre-qualifiers.
She then composed herself and birdied the par-4 8th hole, her 89th hole in the competition.
The birdie on the eighth brought her back to seven-over and a par on ninth saw her end the 90 holes in seven-over.
She then had to wait for more than two hours before knowing her fate.
Six players were fighting for four spots after tying for 27th place at the end of five gruelling rounds at the Qualifiers.
With five others also finishing at seven-over in tied 27th place, the LET rules called for a play-off for the final four places from 27th to 30th.
Sharmila came through on the third play-off hole and clinched her full card on the LET.
Story first published on: Friday, 20 January 2012 09:00 IST