25th February 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Three-way tussleÂ at Royal Cape
The KwaZulu-Natal golfer shares pole position with Sunshine Ladies Tour winners Nicole Garcia and Ashleigh Simon, while local amateur Amy Henning took on the South-Easterly wind to finish just one off the pace at her new home course at Royal Cape Golf Club.
Stacy Bregman, a two-time champion this season, also stayed close to the leaders.
The 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader opened with a one under 73 to tie for fifth alongside British pair Lucy Williams and Rebecca Hudson, a four-time winner on the Ladies European Tour.
After two runner-up finishes and a top 10 in her first three starts on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, Eaton feels she is close to a podium finish.
The former Symetra Tour winner seemed oblivious to the wind gusting at 45 kilometres an hour. She followed an early bogey at the par-four second with seven straight pars and reeled in four birdies to complete the back nine in a flawless 33 strokes.
â€œI learned to play golf in the wind on the South Coast, so I always enjoy the challenge,â€ the 29-year-old Port Shepstone player said. â€œI had a wobble at the start of the round when I missed a putt for par, but I also struggled a little off the tee.
â€œI knew I just needed to stay patient out there and I could take advantage of the back nine at the holes that played with the wind. I used a lot of three-woods and wedges coming down the straight and I felt really good over the putter. The game is definitely there, so I donâ€™t mind if the fan stays on.â€
The 24-year-old from Ebotse Golf Estate was four under after gains at the third, fourth, fifth and seventh holes, and dipped to five under after another birdie at the par-five 11th.
Unlike Eaton, Garciaâ€™s three-wood cost her three strokes on the home stretch.
â€œI hit three bad tee shots and made three bogeys and that cost me the lead, so the three-wood is on probation,â€ Garcia said.
â€œIâ€™m actually really pleased to be in contention. It was a really windy weekend in George, but the experience definitely helped me out there. I really struggled with that four-club wind at Oubaai and the wind blew pretty hard at Outeniqua, too, but I managed myself a lot better in the final round.
â€œI used that experience here at Royal Cape and itâ€™s nice to see an improvement.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t have the greatest of starts at Glendower because the jet-lag caught up with me, but I started gaining form in George,â€ said Simon, who tied for third at Fancourt.
â€œThe wind was a little tricky, but I drove the ball really well and I managed to pick up six birdies. I finished with two three-putt bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes and that was a little disappointing.
â€œHopefully I limit the mistakes in the final round and get the job done this week.â€
PHOTOS â€“ Melissa Eaton, Nicole Garcia and Ashleigh Simon; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA.