15th February 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Investec Cup Chase joy for rookie Williams
Not even if the celebrated Stephen Spielberg himself had produced the final round of the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies could he have added more drama to the last nine holes than newly-minted champion Kim Williams (flanked at left by Selwyn Nathan of the Sunshine Tour and Heather Casey of Investec) supplied in her pro debut victory at Houghton Golf Club.
The Pretoria player led by one after an opening 70 in the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s launch event and carded a 73 to edge out fellow rookie Nicole Garcia for a one stroke victory on one-under-par 143. But the 27-year-old was the first to admit that “this was not a pretty win.”
“I’ve never been able to hit a wedge 120 meters, but I guess I’ve learned nervous adrenaline will do for your game,” joked a delighted and relieved Williams.
“The last four holes certainly wasn’t pretty and actually, I didn’t even know I had a two shot lead playing the last. When I tapped in for birdie, I thought it was for a play-off with Nicole. It was only when someone in the crowd around the green shouted ‘Hey Kim, never mind the bogey, a win is a win’, that I registered I’d won.”
“I’m really so extremely happy right now,” she gushed. “This win means so much to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my pro career and to show them getting my LET card last year wasn’t a fluke. I’m also really happy to show Paul (van der Schyff) from Sunlight Solar that he has backed the right horse.”
Williams dove to five under with birdies at the second, fourth and fifth holes, but turned just one clear of Garcia after bogeys at sixth and eight. “I knew Nix was playing well ahead of me, and the tough nine was still coming, so I just wanted to play percentage golf and keep my lead safe,” she said.
“I got back to four under with a birdie at 11th, and was fine through the next couple of holes, but then the wheels fell off a bit.”
A poor tee shot at the 15th left Williams stuck below some trees, with only one option. “I punched out and took my punishment. Overshot the green at 16 completely; had the right club, but just too must strength. I knew nailing the par-putt at 17 was crucial to stay in front.
“But coming down 18, though, I didn’t realize than Nix had bogeyed the last.”
Williams had just 115 meters to the pin, but her shot into the green flew clear past the flag and caught on the back fringe. Trying to dial down her nerves, she got overcautious and left the first putt well short.
“I left myself a tricky downhill 12-footer and it slipped just past the hole,” Williams explained. “So, I guess it’s true what they say; sometimes a bogey is also good enough.”
Garcia, meanwhile, dropped three shots in succession from the 16th to finish second. “I was disappointed for about 20 seconds, but I am very happy for Kim,” said the 23-year-old from Ebotse Golf Estate. “I was hoping for a top five, so second is still a goal achieved this week. We have six more events to go, and I will be working towards winning one of those.”
Garcia’s normal caddie might also be out of a job, after former Sunshine Tour player and well-renowned coach Robbie Stewart kept her company at Houghton.
“Grant (Veenstra) usually caddies for me, but since he made the qualifier for the Africa Open, Robbie took the bag. He calmed me down, gave me pep talks and just incredible on the greens. Grant might have to become just a spectator in the future,” she joked.
The biggest surprise on the day was a two-under-par 70 served up by top SA junior golfer Michaela Fletcher.
The Pietermaritzburg amateur arrived at Houghton on the back of winning the Eastern Province Match Play Championship on Tuesday and walked away with a share of third on two over 146 in her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut with Louw, Smit and Tandi von Ruben.
Fletcher attributed her eight shot improvement to a hot putter and the positive impact of her playing partners.
“I played with Laurette Maritz and Nora Kagonyera from Nigeria, and they were just incredible to me,” said the Pietermaritzburg golfer.
“They constantly chatted and Laurette, who is such a legend of the game, was amazing. She kept me calm between shots sharing her experience and knowledge.
“I am really thankful that the Sunshine Ladies Tour has given my fellow amateurs and I the opportunity to play with the pros; the last two days has been simply amazing.”