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15th June 2023 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Buhai lifts Shoprite LPGA Classic title

12 June 2023 – As she entered her 30s, Ashleigh Buhai was frustrated with consistently contending but never winning on the LPGA Tour. There was nothing wrong with her swing, so she began working with a mental coach.

Now at the cusp of 35 on a tour dominated by players a decade or more younger, the reigning AIG British Women’s Open champion is playing the best golf of her career.

Buhai seized the lead early with four birdies in her first five holes, got up and down for one last birdie for a six-under 65 and held off Hyo Joo Kim for a one-shot victory in the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday.

“I had a really good amateur career and was going to be the next best thing out of South Africa, but that’s golf; it’s just not like that all the time,” Buhai said. “I kept plugging away. I have a good support system around me, which I think is the most important thing.”

It was the fourth win worldwide over the past 10 months for Buhai, who finished at 14-under 199 in the 54-hole event on the Bay Course at Seaview. Buhai won her first Major last August, added the Australian Women’s Open in December 2022 and won her fourth Investec South African Women’s Open title in March. She entered the week ranked 16th in the world and by Wednesday, she had risen to a career-high 12th.

At 34 years, 11 months, Buhai is the oldest winner this year on the LPGA Tour.

“It’s huge. I won a Major, which counts as a LPGA Tour win, but one of my big goals this year was to win here on US soil. I hadn’t won here yet, and I’m very proud of myself for ticking it off my bucket list,” Buhai said.

Buhai recalled a visit from long-time swing coach Doug Wood in October 2021 as the start of her turnaround. Wood couldn’t find any issues with her mechanics and put her in touch with mental coach Duncan McCarthy.

“I think I’ve also got to a point where I’m older in my career. Felt I should have achieved more by then and the pressure I was putting on myself. Again, I’m 34, so wanting to have a family,” Buhai said. “These things sit in the back of our minds that nobody really knows about and you don’t realize what havoc it plays back there. COVID, not being able to go back to South Africa, see my friends and family was also really tough.

“So we kind of tapped into all that, really got Ashleigh, the person, feeling better again.”

Playing in the penultimate pairing, Buhai began the day three shots behind leader Dani Holmqvist. By the time she rolled in a long birdie from off the back of the green on the par-four fifth hole, she led by one over Kim.

“Obviously I got off to such a good start, and the putt on five was a hallelujah,” Buhai said. “Those things need to happen for you to win, obviously.”

Kim, in the final pairing, birdied the par-three 17th to give herself a chance, but she needed to eagle the par-five 18th to match Buhai and could only manage birdie. She shot 68.

Behind Buhai, Paula Reto closed with a 69 for a share of 22nd and Lee-Anne Pace had a 71 to finish in a share of 30th.

– third turn in the winner’s circle for Ash Buhai since becoming a Rolex First Time winner and major champion at the 2022 AIG Women’s Open. Other wins include the Australian Women’s Open in December 2022 and the Investec South African Women’s Open in March 2023.
– only player to have won on both the LPGA Tour and the LET this season
– second South African with multiple LPGA Tour wins, following Sally Little (15)
– oldest winner of the 2023 LPGA Tour season at 34 years and 11 months old
– earned 19 top-10 finishes in her career and 6 this season
– first South African to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer
– represented South Africa at the 2016 Olympics, finishing 50th

Ladies European Tour: 5
Sunshine Ladies Tour: 12
Women’s PGA Tour of Australasia: 1

With her win, Buhai earns 500 points and climbed from 13th to fourth in the Race to the CME Globe and reached a career-high 12th in the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings. She has earned $740,919 this season and $4,352,359 in her career.

Eight cuts made in 10 events played with one victory and five top-10 finishes

Written by AP and edited by Lali Stander | Issued by the LPGA Tour and the Sunshine Ladies Tour