She had never been in such a strong position before and it showed on her 15-year-old shoulders, but Whanganui's Tara Raj clung on to claim her first Jennian Homes Charles Tour victory on Sunday.

Raj won the Open Ladies title at the Harewood Open in Christchurch by just one stroke with a combined seven over par score of 295, following a strong final day challenge from Caryn Khoo (Pakuranga) with 296 and Yoonjeong Huh (Gulf Harbour) on 298.

The Wanganui Golf Club member had dominated the 16-player field from Thursday onwards, carting rounds of 74 68 76 as she took a commanding six-shot lead into Sunday.

But the amateur Raj found the final round challenging, as despite starting with a birdie on the first hole, she dropped eight shots in a six hole stretch to let Khoo back into the equation, ultimately finishing one short of a playoff after a strong round of 71.


It made for a nerve-racking final four holes for Raj, but she played it out to the end to win the silverware with a round of 77.

With a two-shot lead playing the par five 18th hole, Raj left her approach shot short of the green, as Khoo applied the pressure by chipping the ball close for a straightforward tap in to make a birdie.

That meant Raj needed to make up and down to save the championship she had in the bag only hours before, and she did it in style by chipping the ball just inches from the hole to seal the victory.

"It feels really good, it got a little bit stressful out there but it feels nice to get it done and hopefully I can get some more wins the future," Raj said.

"It's such a special moment and I talked to mum who was with Grandma and they were screaming down the phone, which was awesome.

"I wish they were here, but I'm happy and they're happy so all is well."

Tara Raj on Day 2.
Tara Raj on Day 2.

Earlier, Raj played some of the best golf of her young career as had a massive eight shot lead on the field after Friday's round of 68, starting on the back nine and making steady progress while the others were fading in the challenging conditions.

She nailed a hole-out eagle on the second hole, a par 4, from 50m out, which was followed by a birdie on the next hole to really set the pace at the Harewood Golf Club.

"I was feeling confident entering the back nine, but I didn't see this coming," she said that afternoon as she contemplated having such a massive lead for the first time on New Zealand's professional circuit.

"It feel's weird, but it's exciting.

"I was chipping well all day with another chip in birdie in my round to go with the eagle, but it's nice to see my winter practise paying off."

The good form continued on Saturday because while the Christchurch easterly meant no player went under par, Raj's round of four-over 76 was more than enough to keep her safe at the top of the leaderboard.

"I'm feeling good and wish today would have gone a bit better, but feeling confident coming into tomorrow," she said at the time.

"It's a new experience, but I'm just going to try focus on every shot and try and play my own game.

"It's nerve-racking as well, but hopefully tomorrow will be a good day. I have been practising hard, so it's nice to see it all paying off."

Those hopes didn't eventuate as Raj intended, but she did enough under pressure to hang on, which was very impressive without family there to help guide her.

"This is the first event my mum hasn't come to, so I have been getting a lot of phone calls, but I would much rather her be here and everyone at home is watching and wishing me luck," Raj said.