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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.

SOCIAL MEDIA – TOURNAMENT
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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.


1st February 2019 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Buhai goes wire-to-wire at Irene

1 February 2019 – South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai went wire-to-wire at Irene Country Club to complete a convincing four-shot victory on eight-under in the Canon Sunshine Ladies Tour Open on Friday.

She could not match her opening two rounds of 67 and 68, but with a lone bogey over three rounds, the win was never in doubt and she pushed her winning tally on the local circuit to 10 with a final round one-over 73.

Defending champion Stacy Bregman soared up the leaderboard with a closing four-under 68 to finish second on her own at four-under.

Yet another South African Lejan Lewthwaite also made strides with a third round 68 to take third on two-under. England’s Lauren Taylor was fourth on one-under and former Investec South African Women’s Open champion Tandi Mc Callum from South Africa completed the top-five on level par for the week.

“I’m very happy to pull off the win this week in the first tournament of the year,” said Buhai, whose only drop in the tournament was a soft bogey at the 52nd hole.

“Today was quite scrappy, but that’s just what you have to do to try win. Thank goodness there were no pictures on the scorecard. I learnt that I just had to stay patient and keep grinding.

“The course I played a little tougher. There were some low scores, but thank goodness I had that seven-shot lead starting the round. I knew I had that comfort zone. After nine, I knew I wasn’t going to hit it close, so I just started going for the big part of the greens and taking my two-putts to make as many pars as I could coming in.

“I think a few years ago I would have got more frustrated with myself, and probably made quite a few more bogeys. Today, I trusted my ability, especially with my putter. I made one bogey in 54 holes, so I’m really chuffed with that.”

Despite the comprehensive triumph, the 29-year-old Buhai said she was not totally satisfied.

“My goal was to get to double-figures, and then push on from there. When I had a six-shot lead with nine to go, it was just about grinding it so no one could catch me. Double figures was still my goal, even coming down the last. I was still trying to make birdie even though I just bogeyed 17.

“Overall, it was a good tester to see where I’m at and where I can improve. The main positive is that if I’ve got a sharp short game when I’m not hitting it well, I can still score.”

Buhai had just hit her tee shot into the par three 13th when play was suspended due to lightning. It turned out to be a short delay, with the players resuming within the hour. The disruption was far from ideal, but Buhai was still up to the task of closing out an emphatic victory.

“On 13, I hit one of the few iron shots that I flushed the whole day,” she said. “I thought I finally got something going and then we went off. I just had to accept it. Luckily we weren’t called off for too long. My first drive back, my hand slipped in the rain and I hit it out right. I had to punch out but I got it up-and-down from 60 metres to keep the momentum going. Overall, I’m happy with the week but disappointed with today.”

“Any time you shoot under par, you take the positives out of that,” said Buhai. She paid tribute to the sponsors for helping the event proceed.

“A huge thanks to Canon for coming on board and for sticking with us these last three years,” said the world number 116. “Without sponsors, it wouldn’t be possible. And to Investec, they have been our biggest supports and it’s great to have them on board again. The Sunshine Ladies Tour is growing every year and that’s what we want to see.”

Buhai leaves on Saturday to compete in two LPGA events and one LET event in Australia and returns in March to take up her title defence in the R2-million Investec South African Women’s Open at Westlake, which is co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour.

Bregman, who won the 2018 Investec Property Fund Order of Merit last year and former LPGA Tour winner Lee-Anne Pace, who withdrew after nine holes in the second round after the onset of a migraine, will also be making the trip down under.

Eighteen-year-old Symone Henriques was second after an opening round 70.

She slipped from contention with an 80 in the second round, but bounced back to overtake fellow GolfRSA Elite Squad player Kajal Mistry with a final round 74 to win the amateur honours on eight-over 224.

The Sunshine Ladies Tour moves to Serengeti Estates next for the inaugural Serengeti Team Championship on 5 and 6 February. Teams of two will compete in the Betterball format for the lion’s share of the R100 000 prize fund. 

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