21st January 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Ice-cool Park stuns for SA Womenâ€™s Masters success
Carrie Park from South Korea rubber-stamped her status as a future world beater when she clinched her first Sunshine Ladies Tour title in spectacular fashion in the South African Womenâ€™s Masters on Saturday.
The 19-year-old held her nerve to construct a mature even-par 72 on a day of wind and drama at Rondebosch Golf Club as the expected charge from veteran pros Lee-Anne Pace and Ashleigh Buhai never got off the ground.
The petite Park was the picture of calm as she started her title bid with a two shot lead over Buhai and Pace a further shot back. That cool exterior slipped for the first time after she tapped in for par at the final hole to capture a five stroke victory over Buhai and Englandâ€™s Kiran Matharu on a winning score of seven-under-par 209.
Not only did Park pocket the biggest pay cheque â€“ worth R70Â 000 â€“ of her short career, but victory in the R500Â 000 showpiece rocketed her to the top of the 2017 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
â€œI canâ€™t believe Iâ€™ve done it; this is amazing,â€ gushed Park.
â€œI know how experienced Lee-Anne and Ashleigh are and I knew a two shot lead wouldnâ€™t be much if they started firing, so I just tried to stay inside the zone and keep everything else out of my head. I had a few scary moments out there, but I kept it together and I am so proud that I didnâ€™t fall apart on myself. Iâ€™m on top of the world right now.â€
It wasnâ€™t all smooth sailing for Park, who has lived in South Africa since 2009 and calls herself â€˜Proudly South Africanâ€™.
She interupted straight pars over the first six holes with a birdie at the fourth, but surrendered her first shot of the day at the seventh. Level for the day at the turn, she caught a bad break as she started the back nine with a four shot lead.
â€œMy tee shot rolled just off the fairway into a patchy area,â€ she said. â€œI took a few practice swings, and on the third swing, I saw the ball move about an inch, so I had to call a penalty on myself.
â€œI finished the hole with a bogey and dropped another shot at 12 and suddenly, Ashleigh, Lee-Anne, Kiran and Nicole (Garcia) were breathing down my neck.â€
Her pursuers battled to find some traction to narrow the gap in the gusting wind and Park was back in control with a birdie at 13. At 15, she made a superb par save and chipped for another birdie at 16.
â€œThe wind pushed my call in the left greenside bunker at 15,â€ said Park. â€œThe ball was few inches from the edge and behind the ball there was a hole in the sand. The ball was below my feet and I had little room to move, but I told myself just to try to get it on the green and try to save par. I hit a great shot and I holed a long left to right putt for par. That gave me a boost for the last three holes.â€
Park took a conservative approach at the last two holes to protect her lead.
â€œI didnâ€™t want to risk anything on the last two holes, but I lagged it close at the 18th and it felt so good to have the tap-in left for par to seal the win,â€ she said.
â€œIâ€™m taking a lot of confidence to the SA Womenâ€™s Open and I like the course because it suits my game, but itâ€™s too early to talk about back-to-back victories. Iâ€™ve made a great start to the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies and hopefully I can build on that next week, because I really want to play for that R1-million again at the end of the season.â€
Buhai and Matharu tied for second on two under after respective rounds of 73 and 75 and Garcia moved into fourth on one under with a 74. Pace signed for a 76 for a share of sixth with recent SuperSport Ladies Challenge champion Kim Williams, who closed with a 72.
Western Province amateur Katia Shaff won the Sally Little Trophy as the leading amateur. The Austrian-born player rallied with successive rounds of 73 after opening with an 81 to grab a share of Â 19th on 227.
PHOTO â€“ 2017 SA Womenâ€™s Masters champion Carrie Park; credit Johan Rynners.