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29th April 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

SA duo hit stride in USA

2014SLT_CICFL_AshleighSimon_PuttWebSouth Africans Ashleigh Simon and Paula Reto enjoyed a fortuitous fortnight in the United States, as both players cashed in at the last two events on the LPGA Tour.

 

LPGA rookie Reto claimed her first cheque with a tie for 22nd at the LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii last week, while Simon wrapped up a top 15 finish at the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic on Sunday.

 

Having missed the cut in her first four starts, Reto posted rounds of 72 and 69 at the Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei to earn her first weekend start. The Purdue University graduate followed with two impressive 73s and finished on one-under-par 287, 13 shots behind winner, Michelle Wie.

 

Simon, meanwhile, had a short week in Hawaii, and was on the reserve list in in San Francisco.

 

However, the three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner got the call and barely had the time to find a replacement for regular caddie, David Buhai, before she had to tee it up at Lake Merced Golf Club.

 

Simon made excellent use of the opportunity, though.

 

The 23-year-old Johannesburg pro navigated her way around the par-72 layout in rounds of 73, 70, 73 and 72 to tie for 15th on even-par 288.

 

“It’s just crazy how things happen in life,” said an elated Simon from San Francisco after adding a welcome $24,595 to her bank account. “I had an absolutely awesome week in San Francisco. I went from being second reserve on Thursday morning to getting into the tournament, had 20 minutes to find a caddie and to tee it up and ended up having my best finish so for on the LPGA Tour.

 

“A huge thanks to Lee Griffiths for stepping up at the last minute and for a great four days at Lake Merced.”

 

Simon won the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower and Blue Valley and triumphed in the Tshwane Ladies Open on the Sunshine Tour before leaving for the United States.

 

She tied for 32nd at the Kia Classic in her third start and the top 15 finish lifted Simon to 71st on the LPGA Money list with earnings of $35,554 in five starts.

 

While Simon celebrated her good fortune, Lydia Ko also ended a memorable week with her first pro win.

 

Ko celebrated her 17th birthday, was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world b TIME Magazine and held off world number three Stacy Lewis and Jenny Shin to claim her third LPGA Tour title on a winning score of 12-under 276.

 

“Normally they would say sweet 16, but I would say it is sweet 17, because I don’t think I could have had a better birthday week than this,” said Ko, whose victory vaulted her to second in the Rolex World Rankings.

 

Or, perhaps it was the caddie factor for Ko, too, since the New Zealand rookie claimed her maiden win with a fill-in caddie from the Lake Merced Golf Club on the bag.

 

PHOTO – Ashleigh Simon; credit Dale Boyce.