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2nd August 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Park pushes in front at Ebotse Challenge

2016 Sun International Ladies Challenge: Day 3It must be something in the water on the East Rand, because it seems that Carrie Park always saves her best golf for Ekurhuleni. Just a few months ago, the pintsized rookie shared the 36-hole lead in the ERPM Challenge in Boksburg. Today, Park fired a flawless five under 67 to leapfrog first round pacesetter Duane Kean for the outright lead in round two of the IGT Tour’s Ebotse Challenge in Benoni.

The Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner moved to two-under-par 142 and she will start the final round with a one shot cushion over Keun, who returned a 74.

Local pro Brandon Pieters rallied with a 68 after opening with a frustrating 76 to join Pretoria amateur Philip Kruse (71) at even-par 144, while Ebotse junior Jayden Schaper and Benoni Lake pro Pieter Moolman matched each other with 73s to finish a further stroke adrift in joint fifth with yet another local, Dean O’Riley (71), and amateur Etienne Janse van Rensburg.

While her first round scorecard was marred by a triple and two bogeys, Park made the best of the sunny weather on day two. She turned two under after birdies at one and nine and dipped five under par with further gains at 13, 15 and 18.

“I would have to say that the biggest difference was the weather,” said Park.

“We played in freezing temperatures in the first round and the wind was absolutely howling. It was at least a three-club wind and although I barely missed a fairway, it made club selection into the greens really tough.

“This course is extremely tight and it has so many slopes, so accuracy and consistency is key to scoring here. Today I hit all the fairways and almost every green in regulation and I got a couple of putts to drop.”

The South Korean player was one of the first female golfers to start campaigning on the country’s premier development circuit three years ago.

She did all her preparation for her pro debut on the unisex Tour and once the Sunshine Ladies Tour wrapped up in March, Park returned to the IGT Tour and she has been laying the groundwork for a maiden breakthrough ever since. In addition to a second place finish at the ERPM Challenge and third in the Houghton Challenge, the GFG Academy player has top five finishes in three other events since May and she has only finished outside the top 20 once.

Park is heading to the United States in two weeks with Nobuhle Dlamini and Francesca Cuturi to compete in the first stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying School later this month. Another solid finish will go a long way in building her confidence for golf’s most gruelling test.

“Going to Q-School is a massive expense,” Park said “The entry fee alone is R40,000 and I estimate spending about R100K with the travel, accommodation, practice rounds and so on. I definitely want to be at my best when I play Mission Hills.

“I’ve always been pretty straight off the tee, but I’ve worked really hard the last five months to gain more distance and to improve my putting. I’m pleased with the results, but there is always room for improvement.”

Park dominated the South African amateur scene and the former Sanlam SA Amateur Match Play and Stroke Play champion was ranked number one in the country when she turned pro last year.

“My game has come on in leaps and bounds since last November,” Park said. “My game has matured a lot and I gained a lot of experience from playing with the likes of Bertine (Strauss), Ashleigh (Simon) and Lee-Anne (Pace) on the Sunshine Ladies Tour in the summer. I’ve also learned a lot from competing against the guys on the IGT Tour because men approach the game differently. I like to watch how they approach the hole and how they get themselves out of trouble and apply that to my own game.”

If Park succeeds on Wednesday, she will become the first female champion on the IGT Tour since the tour launched in 2010.

“Wow, talk about pressure,” she laughed. “Seriously, I’m not focussed on that. I just want to hit every fairway and green, because in the long run, accuracy and consistency wins you tournaments.”

All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
142 - Carrie Park 75 67
143 - Duane Keun 69 74
144 - Brandon Pieters 76 68, Phillip Kruse AMA 73 71
145 - Pieter Moolman 72 73, Jayden Schaper AMA 72 73, Etienne Janse van Rensburg AMA 75 70, Dean O’Riley 74 71
146 - Gregg Blainey (ENG) 74 72, Wesley Baptiste AMA 76 70, Nicole Garcia 73 73, Simon Kruger 74 72
147 - Jonathan Waschefort 77 70, Coert Groenewald 76 71
149 - Martin Rohwer 75 74, Terence Boardman 76 73, Hilton Hughes AMA 73 76
150 - Armand van Dyk AMA 76 74
151 - Matt Bright 81 70, Ivanna Samu AMA 77 74, Tristen Strydom AMA 77 74, Teagan Moore 76 75