Stupples soars to Open heights

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There were two stories to tell about Karen Stupples on Sunday night after the 31-year-old from Deal in Kent became the first home winner of the Weetabix British Open since 1991.

Tales of rags to riches do not come much better than tracing the incredible journey from the days when Stupples worked as a cloakroom attendant in the Port of Dover and later as a waitress to finance her way through the ranks of amateur golf.

After turning professional on the US circuit five years ago there followed hard times when Stupples was down to her final few hundred dollars and on the verge of calling it a day. Her only other win in five years as a professional came in the Welch's/Fry's Championship in Arizona in March.

On Sunday night she was £160,000 richer with the golfing world at her feet after winning the final women's major of the year by the astonishing margin of five shots at Sunningdale.

A complete book could be written on her final round of 64, which was two shots better than any other in the history of the tournament and her 72-hole total of 19-under-par equalling the Open record set by Australian Karrie Webb on the same course in 1997.

Starting out one stroke behind overnight leaders Heather Bowie of the US and Australian Rachel Teske, she began with a two-hole sequence never before recorded at the start of a professional round of golf - either by men or women - and which will probably never be equalled.

At the par five first she hit her second shot to within 15ft and holed the putt for an eagle. Her five iron came out for a second time at the second and she found the hole from 205 yards out for an albatross.

As she moved to five under par after just two holes, the roars of thousands could be heard around a sunkissed corner of Berkshire where the stockbroker and royal residents prefer to spend their Sunday afternoons in peace behind high security fences.

Suddenly from being among the pack of hounds, Stupples had become the target for others to chase. But after such a start, she was full of self-belief. "I knew then that it could be my day and I decided to enjoy it," she said later.

There was a nervous wobble when she three-putted the sixth hole and the same error could have been costly when she squandered two brilliant shots into the long par-five 14th.

Briefly it opened the door for Teske as there was only one shot between them, but Stupples then reeled of a hat-trick of birdies from the short 15th and standing on the 18th tee, with a five-shot lead, she was able to enjoy the tumultuous applause that matched here every stride up the final hole.

At some stage this week Stupples will donate a considerable chunk of her prize money to junior golf in Kent in the hope of inspiring other youngsters to follow in her footsteps.

Recalling the hard times, she said: "It goes to show if you have a dream you should never give up on it. Keep trying and keep persevering. You never know. It could always happen."

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