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19th April 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Haig, Park to face off at ERPM

Haig_Park_SLTAnton Haig wore the steely look of a gladiator as he marched into contention for his first title since 2007 with a 69 at ERPM Golf Club on Tuesday. Moments later, Carrie Park put the finishing touches on a 69 to join Haig in pole position in the ERPM Challenge.

Haig stands six foot three in his socks; pint-sized Park barely breaks five feet. He plays off the championship tees and she drives it off a combination of ladies and senior tees.

But that’s where the differences ends.

Haig and Park shot 64s in a birdie slugfest on Monday. Both dropped two shots in Tuesday’s second. Both are competing for the same prize fund and for both, a maiden IGT Tour title is on the line. An eagle, 11 birdies and two bogeys each later, the question begs: who wants that title the most?

Park could prove a handful on Wednesday.

When the IGT Tour opened its doors to women amateurs and pros in 2014, Park was the first to sign up. She spent the last two years honing her craft on the IGT Tour and is very comfortable competing in the predominantly male environment. So comfortable, in fact, that the 19-year-old South Korean reeled in 11 top 20 finishes in preparation for her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut last year.

Her best finish….a tie for fifth in the 2015 ERPM Challenge.

Park definitely won’t be intimidated going up against the 2007 Johnnie Walker champion, but the new swing is another matter.

“I am working on my left hip rotation to gain more distance,” said the Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie.

“Everything clicked in the first round and the swing felt great, but I really battled with the driver today. You have to hit it on the right side of the fairway at this course to attack the pins, and I put myself in trouble quite a bit. I hit a couple of wayward drives at the start of the round and that cost me shots at one and three.

“We are also off the senior tees today, which meant the course was a lot longer and a lot tougher. I was able to regroup after the two bogeys and get on with things, but my driver didn’t improve. My irons and wedges were solid and the putter saved me more than once today.”
The GFG Academy golfer believes she has the tenacity and drive to take it to the finish line.

“Playing the Sunshine Ladies Tour toughened up my mental game and that’s why I’m excited about the last round.” Park said. “I really want to win just once. It’s tough to beat the men, but I’m going to give it all I’ve got. That said, I’ve played with Anton a couple of times. He is a great guy and an incredible golfer and I’ll be the first to applaud him if he pulls it through.”

Haig hadn’t pegged it on a pro Tour since he campaigned on the 2013 IGT and Big Easy Tours.

The 29-year-old Nelspruit golfer hit is first tee shot in three years at the Kyalami Challenge in February. An opening 63 handed him lead and, although he finished second at Kyalami, Haig added another runner-up finish, two third places, a tie for sixth and a tie for eighth in five subsequent starts on the country’s premier development Tour.

With 18 holes to go, Haig is taking a realistic approach to the final round, including the possibility of being beaten by a girl.

“I told you Carrie Park is a helluva golfer,” Haig laughed. “My only goal is to get through each day an hour at a time and through each round a hole at a time. I don’t put any expectations on myself and I don’t think further than the next shot. I’m not striking the ball as well I would like, but I’m doing enough good things on the course to stay in contention.

“That’s already a huge step forward. I’ve worked really hard to get back to this point and I’ve already come a long way, so there is no need to get ahead of myself. It’s about the marathon, not the race. We all play to win and of course I’d like to win, but I’m not going to think about that until the last putt drops and I look up at the leaderboard.”

133 - Anton Haig 64 69, Carrie Park 64 69
136 - NJ Arnoldi 68 68, John McClean (NIR) 66 70
137 - Dean O’Riley 67 70
138 - Michael Schutz AMA 67 71
140 - Matthew Spacey 73 67, Simon Kruger 69 71, David Ashley (ENG) 75 65, Johary Raveloarison (MDG) 72 68

PHOTO – Carrie Park and Anton Haig; credit CJ du Plooy