26th January 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
International pair take aim at Houghton
Local hopes Ashleigh Simon and Stacy Bregman will have to dig deep to thwart the title hopes of international challengers Rebecca Hudson and Azelia Meichtry in the final round of the Sunshine Ladies Tourâ€™s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies on Wednesday.
Hudson from England carded a flawless 69 to race to a one stroke lead on four-under-par 140, while the top Swiss amateur Meichtry posted a four under 68 â€“ the low round of the day â€“ to finish just a shot off the pace at Houghton Golf Club.
Joint overnight leader Simon slipped to third on two under after a 73, while Bregman returned an even-par 72 to finish fourth on one under 143.
Hudson, a four-time Ladies European Tour winner and past SA Womenâ€™s Open champion, was in contention a few times last year and hopes to get the job done this season.
She opened with a birdie and broke run of 15 straight pars with birdies at 17 and 18.
â€œWe holidayed in Portugal after Christmas and I played a little to keep the rust off, but I didnâ€™t really know what to expect from my game,â€ said Hudson.
â€œI knew the course suited me after the practice round on Sunday, because it sets up really well for longer and shorter hitters.
â€œThe greens were slightly faster in the second round, but there was a lot of tough pin positions. You have to stay patient on this layout. If you try to chase something on this course, you pay the price. I kept patient and played for par and I picked up the birdies when the course presented them.â€
Hudson was impressed with playing partner, South African amateur Ivanna Samu, and is keen to see how Meichtry copes in the final round.
â€œI think itâ€™s an excellent initiative to let the amateurs compete on the Sunshine Ladies Tour to gain experience,â€ Hudson said.
â€œIvanna is very straight off the tee and hits it a land-mile. Playing at this level will really benefit her short game and course management. Azelia played some great golf and I hope she holds up.â€
Of course, Hudson hopes she gets the podium finish.
â€œI hope I win, or Azelia, because if she takes it, she canâ€™t take the money,â€ Hudson joked.
Meichtry was impressive with birdies at two, four, seven and eight to grab a share of the lead at three under, and recovered after bogeys at 12 and 13 with birdies at 14, 16 and 17, but she bogeyed the closing hole in a nervy finish.
â€œI was between clubs at 12 and hit a soft eight-iron into the green and I ended up three-putting for bogey,â€ said the 19-year-old KeNako Academy player.
â€œAt 13, I travelled from bunker to bunker, but I turned things around when I holed a 30-foot putt for birdie at 14. I got to four under with birdies at 16 and 17, but I guess when I realised I was leading, the nerves got me the better of me at 18.â€
Meichtry captured the Nomads WGWP Junior Championship in early 2015 and the Girls Division title at the Curro South Africa Juniors International on the Global Junior Golf Tour in March.
She followed a 37 stroke victory in the MCB Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open in October with a top 10 finish in the SA Womenâ€™s Open at San Lameer Country Club in December.
Playing in the leading group is a daunting prospect for the Swiss amateur.
â€œIâ€™ve never played in the leading group in a tournament of this stature,â€ Meichtry said.
â€œIâ€™ve mostly been in the second to last group and chasing, which is a lot less nerve-wracking. My only aim will be to stay focussed on my own game and not to get side-tracked by Rebecca or Ashleigh.
â€œIf I can par the first few holes, I think Iâ€™ll be okay.â€
Samu, meanwhile, carded a 73 to tie for sixth on one over with Sunshine Ladies Tour winners Monique Smit (76) and Nicole Garcia (74). Â The trio finished one shot back from rookie Carrie Park, who shot 73 to finish at even-par 144.
PHOTOS – Rebecca Hudson (England) and Azelia Meichtry (Switzerland); credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.