A final round 74 wasn’t the ending Chiara Noja’s topsy-turvy week at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International deserved, but the fact she made the weekend, and finished above some of the game’s best, gave the youngster plenty to smile about.
After struggling to find form over the first 21 holes, the 15-year-old superbly fought back to make the cut on the line, before posting a sublime bogey-free 68 in the third round to move under par ahead of the final day at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
The rollercoaster week ended on a downward slope with the final round 74, but Noja has come a long way since last year’s Dubai Moonlight Classic, where she struggled to cope under the pressure following a second round 86, to let that get to her.
“I’ve come so far,” she said, when asked about her change in mind-set over the last 12 months. “I really wanted to make that cut yesterday, that was probably the most pressure I’ve been under because I wanted it so bad.
“It been an incredible week. The course was beautiful, the weather was hot, and the wind wasn’t too bad, so you could definitely beat it. There were plenty of times when I need to play strategically, while there were lots of birdies in the second and third round.
“Opportunities were missed, but, at the same time, opportunities were taken. It’s been a real rollercoaster. I think I’ve done so much better this year, lots of work has been put into my game both physically and mentally. I do still make mistakes, and I do doubt myself sometimes, but with my dad being there with me and the hard work I’ve put in, I think I’ve managed to pull myself together quite nicely.”
Noja will pick up a cheque for €5,244.87 with her share of 40th in King Abdullah Economic City – not bad for a 15-year-old who is still in school.
“That money is going straight into savings,” she chuckles. “I have nothing that I necessarily need, so I’m going to pay for my flights and hotel, then call it a day.”
Noja now turns her attention to the upcoming Aramco Team Series – Jeddah, which gets underway Wednesday at Royal Greens. The first of its kind event uses a unique draft system, with team captains picking one pro teammate, before being allocated a third via a random draw, while each team will also be assigned one amateur golfer.
In the team competition itself, it is a ‘two-from-four’ format which sees the best two scores on each hole taken forward for the team. Each professional will also complete every hole and the score will be used for the individual competition.
“It’s a really cool format,” she said. “We’ll see who I get paired up with when the draft takes place this week. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s something I’ve not really done before so it should be a really cool experience.”