28th March 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Williams pursued at Zambia Ladies Open
Kim Williams took a slender lead in the opening round of the Zambia Ladies Open Championship, but the Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie has Ladies European Tour campaigners Stacy Bregman and Tandi von Ruben in hot pursuit.
The unflappable Williams set the target at Ndola Golf Club at three-under-par 70, but the Pretoria pro can hardly afford to relax.
She has Bregman hot on her heels after the Joburg pro overcame a disastrous front nine with three pairs of birdies on the home stretch for a 71.
Von Ruben closed with a one-under-par 72, while two-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Monique Smit lurks at even-par and Swazi rookie Nobuhle Dlamini is just four off the pace.
Williams claimed her maiden pro title at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton in February and is definitely in the market for a second title.
“I’m shooting to win this week,” said the 27-year-old after mixing 13 pars with a birdie at the sixth, a bogey at 13 and a string of three birdies from the 14th.
“I’ve figured out this course and the key is to play percentage golf. You have to keep it in play and take advantage of the placing rule to put yourself as close as possible to the pins.
“If you venture off the fairway, you’re looking at a bogey. I hit one bad tee shot at the 13th, landed behind a tree, punched out and ended up taking a five. The greens are tricky, so you need to stick it close to make birdies. If you are hitting it offline, you’re just penalising yourself.”
Bregman dropped four shots over the first 10 holes before her tee shots started finding their mark.
“I just hit so many bad shots,” Bregman said. “I don’t know why exactly, but nothing was working. But when I boxed a short putt at the 11th for birdie and another at the 12th, my round suddenly just gained momentum.”
The 27-year-old Joburg pro hit her stride with two more birdies at the 14th and 15th and reeled in another pair at the closing holes.
“It was the most absurd start to a round I’ve ever had,” Bregman said. “I’m really glad I could pull it back and put myself in contention, but I’ll need a better start on Friday.”
Von Ruben pulled two clear with birdies at the first and fifth, but lost the advantage with a double-bogey at the par-four seventh. She wedged a bogey between birdies at the 10th and 12th, but then the birdie well ran dry.
“The greens here are tough,” the Sun International Challenge winner said. “Your iron shots have to on song and your short game has to be hot to score around here. I think by Sunday we will have gotten the measure of the greens and then its game on.”
Meanwhile it was a day of mixed fortunes for Zimbabwean amateur Yolande Mubaiwa, who partnered Williams and Bregman. Although she limped home in 92 strokes, the three-handicapper was upbeat and full of smiles in the post-round interview.
“I was absolutely terrified and instead of calming down as the round progressed, I just became more nervous,” Mubaiwa admitted. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, though. It was a fantastic experience. I usually do really well in amateur tournaments, but when you come and test yourself on this kind of stage, you realise how much you still have to learn.”
Mubaiwa said she will take a lot away from the experience.
“Stacy and Kim were incredible and I learned so much from watching both of them. I know I will have to work much harder with my irons and on my putting, because that is what let me down today.”
PHOTO – SA rookie Kim Williams leads the first round of the Zambia Ladies Open Championship; credit Luke Walker.