27th July 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
SA trio set for Woburn test
South Africaâ€™s Ashleigh Simon will join a bevy of world stars, including her Olympic Games team-mate Paula Reto and compatriot Lee-Anne Pace at the Ricoh Womenâ€™s British Open in England on Thursday.
Simon was among 85 hopefuls who contested the last 16 places for the starting line-up at Woburn Golf Club in the Final Qualifying at John Oâ€™ Gaunt Golf Club in Sandy on Monday. She fired a four-under-par 71 to tie for seventh, comfortably snapping up her spot for the seasonâ€™s four Major.
â€œWhen we arrived in England after eight successive starts on the LPGA Tour, I wasnâ€™t too sure what to expect in the qualifier, but I knew I would go all out to make the field,â€ she said.
â€œIn the end, it went really well. I managed to offset a double bogey at seven with three birdies on the front nine to turn one under and erased a drop at 10 with a birdie at 13. I made three great birdies at 15, 16 and 18 to grab a share of seventh.â€
Simon teed it up at the Trump Turnberry Resort in South Ayrshire, Scotland last year after she also came through the Final Qualifying with flying colours.
The two-time European Ladies Tour champion made the most of the sunny conditions in the first round to lead the South African pack with an opening even-par 72 and followed with a 77 to make the cut with Pace, while Retoâ€™s debut was cut short by rounds of 79 82.
Pace finished the week in joint 24th â€“ her second best finish in the Ricoh British Womenâ€™s Open since she finished joint 21st at Royal Birkdale in 2010 â€“ but Simonâ€™s hopes to improve on a career best joint 43rd at Royal Birkdale in 2010 were dashed by rounds of 76 and 75 on the weekend.
Simon made her debut in the Ricoh British Womenâ€™s Open as an amateur in 2006 and she hopes to make the most of her 10th appearance this week.
â€œI am really pleased that I made the field and I want to make this one count so close to the Olympics,â€ said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player.
â€œMy coach (Doug Wood) and I worked on my game during the US Womenâ€™s Open and everything feels good. Iâ€™ve shaken off the jetlag and Iâ€™m rearing to go. Unlike the links-style courses Iâ€™ve played in the past, the Marquess course has more of a parklands look and feel. Itâ€™s more tree-lined, but the greens are big and it poses a lot of challenges.â€
Wanna Be A Champion Academy stable-mate Nicole Garcia and fellow South African Stacy Bregman were also among the 85 qualifiers at John Oâ€™Gaunt, but both players missed with respective rounds of 74 and 77.
Indiaâ€™s Aditi Ashok fired a nine under 66 to win the Final Qualifier. The 18-year-old from Bangalore finished three shots ahead of Spainâ€™s Marta Sanz and Annie Park from the United States.
Coming off a tie for third in the US Womenâ€™s Open earlier this month, it is not surprising that world number one Lydia Ko will start Thursdayâ€™s first round as one of the clear favourites.
She broke through for her first major triumph in the 2015 Evian Championship, claimed this yearâ€™s ANA Inspiration and also came close in the KPMG Womenâ€™s PGA Championship, where she lost to another favourite this week â€“ Canadian Brooke Henderson â€“ in a play-off.
The 19-year-old golf prodigy finished joint third in last yearâ€™s edition and believes she has gained the mental strength to take it all the way to the winnerâ€™s circle this year.
â€œItâ€™s been a learning process, but winning the Evian gave me a lot of confidence,â€ said Ko. â€œWinning the ANA Inspiration and contending in the next two Majors built on that. You are always learning. Even if you lose, there is always a key thing you can take away at the end of each week. What Iâ€™ve learned this season is that every round is a new round, every day a new day.
â€œI remember a couple of years ago, I shot 80 or 80-something in the final round of the British Womenâ€™s Open and won the Marathon Classic the next week. Youâ€™ve got to learn not to punish yourself so much for the bad weeks. Sometimes we have those days where everything clicks, but sometimes it doesnâ€™t and thatâ€™s just the way it is.â€
PHOTO â€“ Ashleigh Simon; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.