Sunday, 12 October 2003
Maarten Lafeber delighted the home crowds when he became the first home winner of the Dutch Open for 56 years with a one stroke victory over Denmark’s Søren Hansen and Mathias Grönberg of Sweden at Hilversumche Golf Club.

Lafeber started the final round one adrift of Hansen but didn’t put a foot wrong in claiming his maiden title with a flawless 67 for a 13 under par total of 267. In the process he became the first Dutchman to win his national title since Joop Ruhl in 1947 and, for the first time, two Dutch players have won titles on The European Tour International Schedule in the same season, Lafeber following Robert-Jan Derksen’s victory in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Lafeber, who lives in Amsterdam 30 minutes away, has been knocking on the door for a long time and couldn’t have picked a better tournament to finally cross the winning line.

“It feels incredible,” he said. “I played really solid and managed to get the putts in. I was so glad not to have to make that birdie putt on the last as the tension was building up over the last few holes. I wanted to win so badly the last few months and to win this tournament means so much to me. It is incredible. A dream come true.

“To win in your home country is incredible especially when it is your first one. It is one of hardest tournaments for me to win because people expect you to do well and win. Now I have done it I am very very relieved the victory is finally there.

“I knew everybody wanted me to win and the support I have had this week has been incredible.”

Victory, only the third by a Dutch player on The European Tour, earned Lafeber €166,660 (£116,211) and lifted him to 25th in the Volvo Order of Merit.

Hansen started out with a one shot lead and immediately set about increasing that with birdies at the second and third, almost holing his approach to the latter. But the eighth and ninth holes proved decisive as Hansen found trouble on both. A bogey on the eighth was followed by a double on the ninth after pushing his approach in the trees and needing two to get out. And as Hansen fell back Lafeber took over the lead with his own birdie on the ninth and never looked back.

Hansen tried to hit back with a birdies at the 14th and 16th but was unable to get up and down on the last for the birdie he needed, leaving Lafeber the luxury of two putts from four feet.

“I made a mistake on the eighth and ninth,” said Hanson. “But I managed to get it back over the back nine so played myself into it on the 18th. Unfortunately I have not bettered par on that hole all week which is a shame.

“I am happy for Maarten,” he added. “It has been due for a long long time and now it will interesting to see how he does in the future because he is a very good player and he played very well today.”

Grönberg also mounted a challenge, moving into a share of the lead with Lafeber on the 15th hole when he converted his sixth birdie of the day but a loose eight iron on the next hole cost him a shot and the lead. A birdie four on the last for a five under par 65 nevertheless posted an impressive target of 12 under par.

“I wasn’t even thinking about winning at the start,” said Grönberg, who earlier this year captured his fourth European Tour title when he won the Italian Open Telecom Italia. “I was hoping to play maybe five or six under but would have taken a top five before the day started.

“When I holed good birdie on the tenth to get back to ten under I thought I could go low on the back nine but it didn’t really happen. The bogey on the 16th was not good but it is very pleasing to be up there near the top of the leaderboard. I needed a good week to try and secure my place in the Seve Trophy team and that is one the things I want to get into. It’s nice to play well.”

Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Denmark’s Steen Tinning shared fourth place on ten under par 270 with Gary Evans, Gary Murphy and Alastair Forsyth a further shot back.

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