13th February 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
SA pros give Ladies Sunshine Tour a huge thumbs-up
With the 2013 season all but wrapped up, the country’s top professionals are back on home soil for some much deserved R&R and the ladies that proudly fly the flag for South Africa abroad have come out in strong support for the new Sunshine Ladies Tour, which kicks off in February 2014.
The Sunshine Ladies Tour will comprise of six 36-hole tournaments that will carry a R100,000 purse each.
Sun International, SuperSport and Dimension Data will sponsor one tournament each, while Investec will sponsor three events, as well as the inaugural Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
An order of merit will be run throughout the series of qualifiers to determine the top 10 professionals that will compete in the R300 000 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
Lee-Anne Pace, who finished second in Europe this season after three victories, was among the first to welcome the new Tour.
“It's so exciting for is to have the ladies Sunshine Tour,” the former Ladies European Tour number one said. “The Tour will give South African players the opportunity to develop and it creates a better platform for amateurs and professionals to move on to next level.
“I am definitely looking forward to competing on the Sunshine Ladies Tour. It's always great for us to play at home where friends and family can support us in person.
“I think it's fantastic to have the support of sponsors like Investec, Sun International, Dimension Data and Supersport, who are all long-term sponsors of the Sunshine Tour, as well as the expertise of Sunshine Tour.
“Women's golf in South Africa can only move forward with this opportunity and hopefully we can see more SA players out there competing on the LET and the LPGA in the near future.”
Cape Town’s Ulrika van Niekerk, who is a regular campaigner on the Symetra Tour in the United States, is equally excited to be able to compete at home.
“I think women’s professional golf in South Africa has nowhere to go but up with the launch of the Sunshine Ladies Tour,” Van Niekerk said.
“I think it is important to lay down roots so that we can eventually have South Africans campaigning and winning on the LPGA. Look at the men’s tours and the foundation they have with the Sunshine Tour. There are so many young players from South Africa now who have transitioned and are making a splash on world tours. Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, and Branden Grace, to name a few. “When I left South Africa to attend college in America, the focus of women’s golf at home was about getting more female players to start playing golf at a younger age.
“I support this, but if we don't also develop our elite amateur players into great professional players, we won't see the next Gary Player or Sally Little. There was no way for players like me, Melissa Eaton, Lee-Ann Pace, and many others to pursue professional golf without leaving South Africa.
“We need to bring the talent back to SA, so that young female amateurs can see where golf can take them. And by doing this, the game will grow by itself.”
Although Ashleigh Simon will be keen to start using her recently acquired LPGA Tour card for the 2014 season, the two-time Ladies European Tour winner hopes to include a few Sunshine Ladies Tour events in her playing schedule.
“I think the launch of the Ladies Sunshine Tour is fantastic news,” the two-time LET winner said.
“It an exciting time for all of us professionals, as well as the amateurs, to be able to play a few events in our own country. I think this will be most beneficial for the up-and-coming amateurs, as well as the local pros. It will give them playing time and an opportunity to test themselves against international competition, which is so important if you are wanting to go to overseas to compete in other tournaments.”
SA Women’s Open winner, Tandi von Ruben, also welcomed the announcement.
“Woman’s professional and amateur golf have been in desperate need of a boost and support, not only to grow the game but also support those individuals who are so passionate and possess the talent to play at the highest level,” Von Ruben said.
“The tour will provide amateurs with a stepping stone towards playing on overseas tours, while cutting their teeth competing against the top local and international Pro’s. It will also give the local pros a means to showcase their talent and hone their games in the pre-season.
“Long term I am positive that there will be a growth in sponsorship and support for the players to go compete overseas, something which has been severely lacking for the past five years. I believe that our local pros have the potential to be great brand ambassadors, not only for sponsors but also for South African as a whole and as a golfing tourism destination.
“No one can deny the fact that we produce amazing talented golfers that are extremely successful on the international arena. It is time for South African Lady Professionals to claim their rightful place on the world rankings and international scene just like our male counterparts. Exciting times lie ahead.”
Ladies European Tour campaigner, Stacy Lee Bregman, had the last word.
Its exciting news to hear about the resurgence of ladies golf in South Africa and the Investec Cup is a fantastic initiative,” Bregman said.
“There are a number of young and aspiring golfers in South Africa and the Sunshine Ladies Tour will give them the opportunity to compete at a higher level and prepare them for international competition.”
Photo supplied by: Scott Miller