13th March 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Garcia shares early lead in Investec SA Women’s Open
12 March 2020 – Nicole Garcia made the most of the tranquil conditions at Westlake Golf Club on Thursday to grab a share of the four-way tie for the lead on the opening day of the €200 000 Investec SA Women’s Open in the City of Cape Town.
The three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner offset a lone bogey with a quartet of birdies for a 69 to join Olivia Cowan from Austria, Italian Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso and Sweden’s Emma Nilsson at the summit on three-under-par.
Compatriot Ashleigh Buhai – the highest ranked player in the field at 103rd in the world rankings and a three-time champion of the event – birdied her last two holes for two-under 70 and sits just one off the pace in a six-way tie at two-under.
Joburg Ladies Open champion Monique Smit also finished in the pack on two-under.
The South African pair shares fifth with 2018 SA Women’s Masters champion Laura Fuenfstueck from Germany, Pasqualle Coffa from the Netherlands, Scotland’s Kelsey Macdonald, Alice Hewson from England, and first reserve Rachel Rossel from Switzerland, who made the most of her late call-up to fight her way into the top 10.
A birdie at the last hole will see former three-time champion Lee-Anne Pace start the second round two off the pace in joint 12th alongside 2020 Women’s New South Wales Open winner and Race to Costa Del Sol frontrunner Julia Engström from Sweden.
Garcia underwent hip surgery in early 2019 and spent most of the season on the bench.
A few weeks ago the Ebotse golfer showed glimpses of a return to form when she lifted the individual title and won the team competition in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge.
“Having the Sunshine Ladies Tour to get back into form was brilliant,” she said. “I could gauge where my game was at, what I needed to work on and what needed attention. I was hitting the ball well and putting nicely, but the scores just wasn’t quite there. Then the win came at Serengeti and that brought a huge injection of confidence.”
Garcia was understandably delighted to get her 2020 Ladies European Tour campaign off to a promising start.
“We teed off in no wind at Westlake, which is very rare, and I had my caddie Graeme Rowan back on the bag after a year off, so I was looking forward to the round and I am really happy that I was able to get a score going.”
Garcia started on the 10th tee and racked up three birdies going out.
“I birdied the first to go four-under, but I didn’t hit a very good shot out of the bunker on the par five (fourth) and paid for it with a bogey. I short-sided myself on the left of the green, but I wasn’t too upset not making the up-and-down, though. The pin was only three or four paces from where I was aiming, so I walked off with a soft bogey, really.
“I had a few more birdie opportunities that I didn’t make, so I was really happy with the three birdies I managed to convert. I hit the ball close on a couple of holes coming home, too. It’s gratifying to see that the game is there. The putting, too. I have the right pace and line, but I just had a few too many lip-outs.
“These greens are very tricky. Just the slightest misread with the grain on the greens here will cause to miss. It’s not dropping into the cup in the centre; it kind of catches the hole on the side and then it either drops or rings the hole. Hopefully I can come to grips with it on Friday and keep the momentum going.”
Buhai clinched her 11th title on the Sunshine Ladies Tour with a commanding five-shot victory in the Jabra Ladies Classic at Glendower Golf Club. She turned two-over, but a gentle prod from her husband and caddie Dave out the LPGA Tour campaigner on the attack.
“Conditions were pretty much perfect, but I didn’t get off to a good start and I turned two-over through nine,” said the 30-year-old. “I was playing a bit defensive and Dave (husband and caddie) gave me a little pep-talk. He said we played good last week and told me to get aggressive, so I did and I made four birdies down the back nine.
“The greens were quite firm when we played them in the afternoon on Wednesday, so I was just sussing them out. Once I started trusting what I was doing, I started to attack the pins. You have to shape it a little off the tee-boxes here; draws and fades.
“I am driving it pretty well and that helps, because the course is pretty narrow and the greens are small. I’m very happy with the way I’m striking the ball, because I’ve put myself in play. It was a bit iffy on the front, but I dialled it in on the back.”
Former Youth Olympian Kaiyuree Moodley leads the amateur challenge for the Jackie Mercer Trophy after carding a two-over-par 74 to finish alongside current Investec Order of Merit leader Stacy Bregman, among others.
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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.