Angela Stanford trusts in ‘God’s plan’ to win Evian Championship

Évian-les-Bains, France CNN —  

On the shores of Lake Geneva, on the 18th green at the Evian Golf Club, Angela Stanford’s faith was tested.

A devout Christian, the 40-year-old American saw her hopes of finally landing a major fade before bursting spectacularly into life, culminating in her being draped in a Star-Spangled Banner delivered from the sky.

A 17-year LPGA pro, she was signing autographs for fans while her rival at the top of the leaderboard, Amy Olson, endured a nightmare on the final hole to hand Stanford the Evian Championship title.

Olson led heading into Sunday’s final round of the year’s final major, and was in pole position to triumph, until a double bogey on the 18th saw her slip into a four-way tie for second place.

Cue tears of joy for Stanford, who seemed to have blown her chances of success with a missed putt of her own on 18.

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“I’ve always believed that God has a plan,” Stanford told reporters, “and that doesn’t mean I haven’t doubted him and it doesn’t mean I haven’t doubted that plan.

“But, deep down, I was with him one way or another. I was prepared to retire and not be a major champion and that was ok because it was his plan.

“He has a sense of humor!”

Stanford finished 12-under par for the tournament, a score that didn’t look like enough to win as Olson headed to the 18th tee at 13-under.

But Olson found the rough with an errant drive before miscuing an attempt to find the fairway.

She was ultimately left with a six-foot putt to force a playoff with Stanford, but it wasn’t to be.

And as she left the green and headed for the cabin, to her left a joyous Stanford was swamped by photographers and embraced by some of her fellow pros.

“In those moments I was thinking of my putt on 18,” recalled Stanford when asked about what was going through her mind during those excruciating final minutes.

“You’re shaking so much that it’s hard to hit something hard. But I wouldn’t let myself go there because I was already crying.”

A spectacular trophy ceremony saw parachutists descend from the heavens, with one carrying an American flag to hand to Stanford.

She’s the only American woman to win a major this year, doing so in the 436th tournament start of her career to collect a check for $577,500.

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Olson, meanwhile, is left to ponder what might have been.

“Amy and I are both Christians,” added Stanford when asked about the 26-year-old. “And I know Amy, I was reading some of her comments and she’s very content in life.

“Everybody wants to win, when you’re out here you want to win. But days like today, I can only imagine the gutted feeling she had on 18.

“But she has plenty of time. She’ll be back.”