23rd February 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Play-off perfection from Park at Glendower
Rory McIlroy would have given anything to match the heroics of Carrie Park and Nobuhle Dlamini at Glendowerâ€™s par four 18th hole where he lost in a play-off to Englandâ€™s Graeme Storm in the menâ€™s South African Open in January.
Park from South Korea and Swazilandâ€™s Dlamini Nobuhle both spectacularly birdied the 18th in regulation play to finish at five-under-par 211 in joint first place in Thursdayâ€™s final round of the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic sponsored by Canon.
Just as McIlory and Storm went up and down Glendowerâ€™s 18th in a sudden-death play-off for the SA Open title before the Northern Irishman bogeyed the third extra hole to hand victory to the Englishman, Park and Dlamini did the same dance.
While Dlamini was targeting a maiden win in the pro ranks, 19-year-old Park was bidding for a second Sunshine Ladies Tour victory after her breakthrough success in the SA Womenâ€™s Masters in January.
With pressure mounting, the pair traded pars for the first three trips down 18 before 19-year-old Park boxed a three-footer for birdie to seal victory at the fourth extra hole.
The petite Centurion golfer smashed a drive down the middle of the fairway and hit an eight-iron pin high to about three feet. Dlamini was even longer off the tee, but she left her approach 20-foot short of the hole and could only manage a par.
â€œIt was tough out there with the rain because the course playing long,â€ said Park, who picked up shots at holes 13, 15 and 18 for a two-under-par 70. â€œI made some good par putts and some good birdie putts, especially on the back nine to get it to five under.â€
Park collected the winnerâ€™s cheque worth R28 000 and Dlamini banked R23Â 000 for second, but the 320 points that came with first place gave Park a boost to third in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
â€œItâ€™s not very easy when someone like â€˜Nobbyâ€™ is bombing it forty yards past you, but Nobby and I go way back,â€ said Park with a chuckle, referring to Dlamini who can boom it 290 to 300 metres off the tee. â€œWe both played for Gauteng North and we used to be foursome partners. It was a good scrap between two good friends in the play-off.
â€œThis win comes at the right time, because Iâ€™m leaving to compete in Korea next week and Iâ€™ll miss the next two tournaments. But Iâ€™m third in the points, so I wonâ€™t fall out of the top 10 for the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final while I am away. Iâ€™ll keep my spot for Millvale.â€
Big-hitting Dlamini â€“ with Killarneyâ€™s head professional Warrick Druian guiding her on the bag â€“ produced the dayâ€™s best 67, which included an eagle-three at the par five 13th, where she hit the green with a booming drive and a five-iron, before rolling in a 35-foot putt.
Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies leader Kiran Matharu had a 20-footer for birdie at the last which would have moved the English player to six under and given her the title had it dropped. The first attempt rolled six feet past and she missed the return for a 71 to tie for third on 212 with last weekâ€™s Dimension Data Challenge winner Nicole Garcia.
Franceâ€™s Valentine Derrey took fifth on 213 in her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut, while overnight leader Ashleigh Buhai closed with a disappointing 74 to finish in sixth place on 214. Centurionâ€™s Kim Williams also closed with a 74 to finish a further shot adrift.
Symone Henriques started with an unhappy 82, but the 15-year-old from Glenvista fired a superb 67 followed by a 75 to win the leading amateur honours on 224.
â€œBesides being a tour for the top professionals, but thanks to the additional financial support we receive from Investec Property, the Sunshine Ladies Tour is also a development opportunity for the amateurs,â€ said Womenâ€™s PGA of SA executive director Barbara Pestana.
â€œIt is wonderful to see them make the most of the opportunity to compete and to learn at this level and we are extremely pleased to see them coming through so well.â€
The first round of the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic sponsored by Canon was a complete wash-out and Pestana said the tour owed Glendower a debt of gratitude for helping them finish the 54-hole event on schedule.
â€œGlendower was a wonderful venue as usual and itâ€™s great that were able to get over the finishing line in spite of the deluge of rain on Tuesday when no play was possible,â€ Pestana said. â€œThanks to their efforts, the players will have a couple of days to rest up before the Sun International Ladies Challenge at Sun City next week.
PHOTO – Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic sponsored by Canon champion Carrie Park; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.