THE Ladies Irish Open, conceived in the Celtic Tiger era, signed off in style with an appropriate level of final-round drama at Killeen Castle yesterday.
Scotland's Catriona Matthew, tournament leader after the first two days, held off the charge of fellow 2011 Solheim Cup star and title holder Suzann Pettersen to win the €52,500 first prize with a final-round 71 for a seven-under- par total of 209.
The consolation was the €35,525 second prize, but business is business, and once she realised she couldn't win -- Pettersen played in the group ahead of Matthew's three-ball -- the Norwegian raced off to catch a flight for home.
Ladies Tour legend Laura Davies, a crowd favourite with the thousands who turned up for the final showdown, made a gallant bid for contention.
Davies started the day in ninth place, but despite limping her way around due to an Achilles tendon injury suffered three months ago while playing soccer -- she plays football twice a week -- her 68 brought the English star into third spot on three-under-par (213).
A crowd of around 10,000 flocked to the magnificent setting at Killeen Castle to see the fifth and final staging of the tournament in its present guise.
The audacious and successful bid for the 2011 Solheim Cup by the developers, who produced the Jack Nicklaus-designed course and top-class facilities, included contracts for five Ladies Irish Open competitions.
They held two at Portmarnock Links and then moved to Killeen Castle for 2010, '11, and '12. All contracts with the 17 sponsors expired at midnight, but event promoter Roddy Carr is ready for a new challenge.
"It's the end of a chapter only, and it's the beginning of the future for women's golf," he said. "I'll be taking on the role of independent promoter for the Ladies Irish Open going forward.
"It's up to me to come up with a sustainable solution for this tournament. That's what I'm working on -- not a quick fix, not a sticking plaster job, a sustainable solution long term for this event."
The galleries got value for money yesterday, as Matthew, 43 later this month, showed her steel to deny Pettersen a second successive chance to become Queen of the Castle.
Pettersen had the cheers echoing around the course as they moved into the round-defining final four holes, 15 through 18.
As the Norwegian stood on the 17th fairway, and Matthew was behind her on the tee, they were tied at seven-under-par.
Inexplicably, Pettersen made a hash of her sand-wedge approach, leaving the ball in a greenside bunker and ended up with a bogey five.
Advantage Matthew, dubbed 'the smiling assassin' by her peers because she's so hard to shake off if she gets an edge on an opponent.
The Scot duly lived up to her reputation, holing from 12 feet for a birdie three on the 17th and a two-shot lead with one to play.
Pettersen could only par the 18th for her six-under total, and Matthew could afford to bogey the last for victory after she was bunkered from her second shot.
"I'm absolutely delighted. It's always difficult going out in the lead. Maybe I was a little bit inspired by some of my play from last year in the Solheim Cup," said Matthew.