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25th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Soweto Country Club in top condition for Joburg Ladies Open

25 February 2020 – The Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners were full of praise for the Soweto Country Club green-keeping staff ahead of Wednesday’s first round of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open.

Seeing the course for the first time, three-time champion Nicole Garcia was positively gushing about the greens.

“I didn’t play last year because I was still on the bench after my hip surgery. The girls told me that the greens were incredibly firm, and the fairways were still patchy but I saw none of that today,” said the Ebotse golfer – the most recent trophy recipient after a double victory in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge on Sunday.

“I was so pleasantly surprised. The course is a great test like every other Gary Player design and the greens are beautiful. The green-staff must have worked incredibly hard in the last 12 months. You can go for a lot of the pins this year, and we will see a lot more birdies. Everyone that played last year can’t stop gushing. The staff can be so proud of what they have achieved in just a short year.”

Three-time winner Monique Smit echoed Garcia’s sentiments.

“It was amazing to see the difference,” exclaimed the Oubaai golfer. “I told my caddie – the same one I had this year – walking to the first tee that we will have to plan for the firm greens, but they have settled so incredibly well. The greens are receptive and the fairways have grown in nicely. It was super-fun playing the pro-am, and watching our seeing our partners making birdies.

“This is probably one of the tightest courses we play all season, and you are going to have to keep it in play and stay out of the trees if you want to go low. Keep finding the greens. Keep it simple.”

Former South African Open champion Tandi McCallum and rookie Casandra Hall chased champion Nobuhle Dlamini all the way to the finish line last year and both players will be gunning for success.

McCallum, second last year, already wore the bridesmaid tag twice this season.

The Parkview golfer lost the SuperSport Ladies Challenge to Lejan Lewthwaite in a play-off and, this time partnering Lethwaite, they were beaten by Garcia and Scottish golfer Gabrielle Macdonald in a four-hole play-off in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge Pro-Am.

Although she was peppering the flags in the final round at Serengeti, McCallum’s putter wouldn’t cooperate. “I had two chances in the play-off to win it with birdies, and the putts died on me. I spent some quality time with the flat-stick on Monday and I’m ready to fire. I’m driving the ball really well, so I’m confident that I can keep it play. And the girls are raving about how the greens have matured, so hopefully it’s third time lucky for me.”

Hall returned from Spain in January with a brand-new Ladies European Tour card in her pocket.

She is still chasing a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour title and this week and the R600 000 Jabra Ladies Classic next week at her home course, possibly represents her best two chances. Third in last year’s event, the Glendower pro is keen to rekindle her love affair with Soweto Country Club.

“A lot of people didn’t like the course last year, but I loved it from the word go and it’s even better this year. I love the layout; it suits my game. The pressure will probably be a bit more this year with so many international players in the field, but competing on the Vodacom Origins series last year helped me settle into the pro environment. I survived the LET Q-School, so I’m ready to fight.”

If she can channel some positive energy, hit it straight and roll in some putts, Hall could very well be crowned the sixth Joburg Ladies Open champions on Friday.

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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.


23rd February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Double Canon Crown for Garcia at Serengeti

23 February 2020 – Nicole Garcia celebrated a much-anticipated return to the winner’s circle with not one, but two dramatic victories at Serengeti Estates on Sunday.

The Ebotse golfer won the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge and led team Shooters to victory in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Pro-Am title in a thrilling four-hole play-off at the Whistling Thorn Course.

Garcia opened her campaign on the 2,618-metre par three championship layout with a level-par 54 and began the final round one stroke clear of Brittney-Fay Berger. In-form Lejan Lewthwaite – already a two-time winner this season – was two shots back in joint third with five-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Stacy Bregman.

Garcia gave the chasing pack a glimmer of hope when she paid for an errant tee shot on the third hole with a double bogey, but she bounced back in style out aced the 165-metre sixth hole with a 7-iron.

She widened the gap on the chasing pack with further gains on 12 and 16 and sealed victory on one-under-par 107 and, despite giving a shot back to the field on the 17th hole, finished five shots clear of Berger.

It took a few more hours though, before Garcia and her team-mates Gabrielle Macdonald and amateur team-mates Abri Kriegler and Daren Hanekom could properly celebrate her third career victory.

Garcia’s birdie on 16 and a Macdonald birdie on 17 boosted the team aggregate to 17-under-par 199, matching the clubhouse target set earlier by Lewthwaite, fellow pro Tandi McCallum and their amateur partners Mike Honiball and Frank Neto.

“That meant a play-off on the 18th hole and The Shooters were excited, because we’d done well on 18 in both rounds; little did we know it would become a proper shoot-out Sunday,” Garcia said.

Both teams had chances to close out the win, including Kriegler who pushed a birdie putt past the hole on the first extra hole. “We tied the 18th hole three times, so they took us to the first, and that’s where we got the job done,” said Garcia, who holed a long-range putt for birdie and was backed up by Kriegler, who got his birdie effort in the hole at last.

1. Nicole Garcia claimed her third Sunshine Ladies Tour title with a five-stroke victory in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge on the Whistle Thorn Championship Course at Serengeti.

“Gabrielle and I had such an amazing time out there with Abri and Daren. Our amateurs could really play. Abri’s handicap index is 13, so he made a big contribution with his nett birdies. Gabrielle didn’t fire in the first round, but she made five birdies for us in the final round. Daren is a member of the South African Disabled Golf Association and one of South Africa’s top ranked deaf golfer. He drives the ball beautifully and we were thrilled when he won the closest to the hole prize in the final round.

“What I will remember most about this tournament is the high fives, the first pumps and all the laughs. We had a genuinely great time out there and we were absolutely thrilled to be the first winners of the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge.”

In addition to the first place prize money Garcia bagged, the Benoni golfer also shared a R100 000 bonus with her partner Macdonald that Serengeti Estates owner David Nagel kicked in.

Garcia spent the full 2019 season on the bench following hip surgery to re-attach the labrum and to reshape the femur bone to fit into the hip socket properly. She landed her third Sunshine Ladies Tour title in her fifth start this season, which bodes well for the “big three” starting next week in the Joburg Ladies Open. “This tournament was perfectly timed in the middle of the season and it has been brilliant in terms of fine-tuning our games for the Joburg Ladies Open, the Jabra Ladies Classic and the Investec South African Women’s Open,” Garcia said.

“All three events are big-money tournaments and the last two come with some serious incentives. The winner of the Jabra Ladies Classic gets a start in the Jabra Ladies Open, which is the Ladies European Tour qualifier for the Evian Championship. And the winner at Westlake gets exemption on the Ladies European Tour until the end of 2021, and spots into the AEG British Women’s Open and the Evian Championship.

“The stakes are loaded. We all honed our short-games this week, and this golf course put up a huge challenge. It was very tough out there, and I think everyone who played this week, will agree with me that we are so much sharper thanks to this experience.”

Monique Smit and Kim Williams – partnering amateurs Dana Eitzen from Canon South Africa and SAGDB member Curtley Roberts – finished third on 205.

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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.


20th April 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Garcia Gets off to Great Start in Morocco

South African Nicole Garcia fired an opening round of four-under-par 68 in ideal conditions to take a two-stroke lead on day one of the Lalla Meryem Cup at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco.

Garcia made a steady start with 11 straight pars but a run of four birdies in six holes from the 12th put her two ahead of her best friend and roommate, Stacy Bregman, as well as German duo Isi Gabsa and Laura Fuenfstueck.

Three of the four players at the top of the leader board have enjoyed success on the South African Sunshine Ladies Tour this season. Garcia posted four top 10s finishes, while Fuenfstueck won the SA Women’s Masters in February. Bregman secured the season-opening Canon Tshwane Open and then the Sunshine Ladies Tour Investec Property Fund Order of Merit, following the co-sanctioned Investec SA Women’s Open last month.

Garcia and Bregman have practised together at home in Johannesburg every day since then, on courses with kikuya grass, although it was Garcia who had the edge on the opening day in the Moroccan capital.

“The grass on the courses here is quite similar to back home and I think that does help, especially around the greens,” said the 27-year-old, who won the LET’s stage one Lalla Aicha Tour School qualifier by 13 shots on the Red Course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in 2014 and then tied for second in the 2015 Lalla Meryem Cup at Golf de L’Ocean in Agadir.

“Every year I’ve had a few good rounds here and a few tough ones, so I’m hoping it’s going to be more consistent.

“I started off a little rocky and I don’t think I hit a green until maybe the sixth hole, so I had a lot of up and downs and some good saves and that got the momentum going. On the back nine, I hit a few good shots, but the putting was good. I’m very pleased, especially after the front nine.”

Garcia said she and LET travel partner Bregman had a bet going that they would both go to Mauritius if they won events this season and as Bregman has already won in South Africa, it’s her turn now.

According to Bregman, she had promised to pay for Garcia’s trip. “I owe her a trip to Mauritius because I won an event and the order of merit. Hopefully I can win here and still take her to Mauritius and somewhere else or if she wins, she can take me somewhere.”

The 23-year-old Fuenfstueck said that her win at San Lameer Golf Resort in South Africa, followed by a top-10 finish on the LET Access Series at Terre Blanche a fortnight ago, had helped her to banish the nerves on the first tee in only her second LET event.

She made three birdies on the front nine but dropped a shot on the 18th and said afterwards: “I had a good start but had to fight a bit on the last couple of holes. I think on the last shot into the green I hit it a bit too good, so it ended up being a bit long but I’m happy with two under.”

Fittingly for a finance graduate, of Charleston University, she said that her goal was to break even this year.

“I just want to play as much as I can. Obviously, this is an amazing event and I’m still a bit mind-blown. I’m trying not to get lost between all the tents and everything. I’m trying to enjoy myself. It’s a bit of a dream come true, I think. You always want to play alongside the men and with the top people in Europe and the world. I’m trying not to get too excited and stick to my game plan.”

Meanwhile, European Solheim Cup team member Florentyna Parker, who played with HRH Prince Moulay Rachid, Chairman of the Hassan II Golf Trophy Association and the Moroccan Golf Federation in the Pro-Am on Tuesday, was a stroke back in a large group of players on one-under-par.

The defending champion Klara Spilkova opened with a one-over-par 73 and was happy with her score.

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16th February 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Park has Bregman, Garcia in pursuit at Dimension Data

It’s her all-time favourite golf course and it showed as Carrie Park overcame a shaky start at George Golf Club to claim the first round lead in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Challenge on Friday.

The South Korean took the sting out of a double bogey at the opening hole with a birdie at the second and racked up four further gains to set the early clubhouse lead with a three-under-par 69.

The early starter’s score went unmatched as defending champion Nicole Garcia, 2015 champion Stacy Bregman, Nicole Bekker and Swiss golfer Valeria Martinoli all came up a shot shy of her target.

“This is my last event before I have to return to Korea because the rest of the schedule conflicts with the Korean LPGA Tour, and I’m just where I want to be,” said Park.

“I really, really love George and this golf course. It’s been my favourite since I came out to South Africa eight years ago and I played a lot of amateur golf here. I’ve always wanted to win the Dimension Data event, because it’s one of the best tournaments on our schedule. It’s a lot of fun to play with the amateurs and there is such a great atmosphere at this tournament with the men and the women playing together.”

The reigning SA Women’s Masters champion was pleased with her comeback after a dreadful start.

“It was not the start I expected, so I was so relieved when I made a birdie at two,” said Park. “It got back on track and I birdied nine to get back to level. I birdied 10 and 11, but it’s not an easy scoring course. It’s very tight, so you have to make the par fives count. I made one more birdie at 16 and then I just hoped that I had done enough.”

Garcia got it to three under at the turn, but gave herself a lot of hard graft on the back nine with a double bogey at 10.

“I had a three-putt at the third for bogey, but I managed to cancel it and then we had quite a long wait at the turn,” said Garcia. “I just lost focus in the 10 minute wait. I got a flier out of the rough and short-sided myself and I didn’t hit a good shot and made a quick double.

“I struggled to get it back; made birdies at 11 and 14 but dropped a shot at 12. I wanted to be close to the top, so I’m pretty happy that I’ve put myself in a strong position with 36 holes to play.”

In-form Bregman won the season-opening Canon Ladies Tshwane Open and leads the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit after a tie for second in the Joburg Ladies Open and a top four finish in Cape Town. She dropped two shots in her outward loop but made up for it with birdies 14 and 16.

“I was going around steadily and then at the eighth, my approach hit something on the green and almost ricochet out of bounds,” said Bregman. “I nearly wrapped my pitching wedge around a tree at the last hole, but it came off and I made a great par. A bit of an up-and-down day, but I’m in a strong position. It was a good start.”

Jamila Jaxaliyeva – the first Kazakhstani to compete on the Sunshine Ladies Tour – moved into sixth place after she cancelled a quartet of bogeys with birdies at four, five, seven and 15.

She is one shot clear of a group of eight players that include 2017 Canon Ladies Tshwane Open champion Kiran Matharu from England, former South African Women’s Open winner Tandi McCallum and Ladies European Tour winner Anne-Lise Caudal from France, who lost the Cape Town Ladies Open in a play-off to Lee-Anne Pace last week.

Sarah Bouch from Ekurhuleni, Kingswood talent Zane Naude and Lindi Coetzee from Gauteng North lead the amateur chase on two-over 74. The trio share 16th place with Camilla Hedberg from Spain, England’s Lauren Taylor, South Africans Kim Williams and Francesca Cuturi, Norwegian Mariell Bruun and  Clara Pietri from Switzerland.

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Written by and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.


15th February 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Defending champion Garcia returns to happy hunting ground

Defending champion Nicole Garcia is looking forward to the relaxed atmosphere of playing in the Pro-am format at the Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Ladies Challenge at George Golf Club starting on Friday.
“I love the Pro-am format of this tournament,” said Garcia. “It makes the whole event feel a little bit more relaxed. I’ve played well in this tournament a few years in a row, and obviously I won last year, so I’m taking a lot of positives into this year’s event.”
The field will be chasing R600 000 in total prize-money for the three-day event, with R500 000 up for grabs in the main tournament and a R100 000 purse for the Pro-am.
“When you’re playing with the amateurs it almost lightens the mood a little bit,” said Garica.

“You also can’t take yourself too seriously because you still have to make it fun for the amateurs. That actually helps me quite a lot. Having that little bit of extra money for the Pro-am format, it’s also great. It also helps them enjoy it more if they can help you earn a bit of extra cash. It’s the highest money event after the Investec South African Women’s Open on our schedule, so I hope it keeps going.”
The Dimension Data Challenge featured on the Sunshine Ladies Tour schedule since the circuit launched in 2014 and it has produced top champions, including 12-time winner Lee-Anne Pace.

Garcia will have her work cut-out for her with past champion and good friend Stacy Bregman in the field.

In-form Bregman, who won in 2015, could pose a huge threat, having backed up a fifth Sunshine Ladies Tour victory in the Canon Ladies Tshwane Open at the start of the season with a joint runner-up finish in the Joburg Ladies Open and fourth in Cape Town Ladies Open last week.

“I’m just going to try play it hole by hole,” said Ebotse golfer.

“I’ll keep my game plan the same. I’m just going to try and enjoy myself. George is my favourite course in the country, if not the world. But there are a lot of strong players in the field this year, so I’m not going to expect too much. I’ll be happy for whoever wins.”

The desire to win for Garcia is especially strong in 2018. Her season last year was derailed in a freak injury right after the Women’s British Open in August that could have ended her professional golf career.
“I slammed my finger in a car door, and when I pulled it out I pulled the finger off,” Garcia explained. ”I mean, I pulled the bone and everything off. I was out for what was supposed to be 10 weeks, but I ended up playing after six weeks. I had to play with a protective finger sock on, but it wasn’t too bad.

“It looks semi-normal now. The surgeon I had was incredible. If I didn’t tell you that I pulled my finger off, you wouldn’t be able to tell. I don’t have any pain and it doesn’t affect my play. The very first event I played after my injury I came top-10.

“Unfortunately, being out for a few weeks meant that I missed out on qualifying school for America and some crucial Ladies European Tour (LET) events. I suppose everything happens for a reason. I did end up keeping my LET card, but I finished 63rd on the order of merit, which means I am not automatically exempt for all events.
Garcia had a top 10 in the season-opener at Pretoria Country Club and finished third at Royal Cape Golf Club, but the 27-year-old finds herself well down in 17th position on the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit after missing the Joburg Ladies Open.

She opted to fly to Australia when she was offered a position in the Oates Vic Open, but missed the cut by one. So it is with renewed conviction that she returns to the scene of her three shot wire-to-wire triumph in 2017.
“I’m feeling pretty confident,” Garcia said. “It was unfortunate that I missed the second Sunshine Tour event, but it couldn’t be helped. I’m feeling good for this week. If I do well, I’ll climb up the order of merit. I’m working hard with my coach Grant Veenstra. We had a practice round yesterday and both courses are looking good.”
Garcia said she and LET travel partner Bregman have a bet going that will hopefully see both ending the season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour with victories to their names.
“My goal for the Sunshine Ladies Tour is to finish in the top-10 on the order of merit. I would like to win at least one or two events. I can’t predict if I will actually do that, but I would really love to.
“Stacy and I made a bet that we’ll go to Mauritius of we both win this season. She’s already won, so it’s my turn now. If I get to win more than one it will be a bonus. The girls at the top are really strong so you have to play really good golf to win these events.”
A strong performance at the Dimension Data Challenge could setup the top five on the order of merit with two more events before the season-ending Investec South African Women’s Open in March. It would take a brave soul to bet against Garcia being near the top of the pile as she once again stakes a claim for a place among the marquee players in South African golf.

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Written by and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.