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16th March 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

SA five forge straight into international action

The dust barely settled on the 2017 Sunshine Ladies Tour but there is no rest for the country’s top ranked players, who are geared for action on the Ladies European Tour in China and LPGA Tour in the United States this week.

Stacy Bregman and Nicole Garcia hope to ride the momentum gained over the last 12 weeks to a solid start on the 2017 Ladies European Tour in China, while Lee-Anne Pace and Ashleigh Buhai will star in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Arizona alongside compatriot Paula Reto.

Bregman and Garcia are the only South Africans lining up the 126-strong field for the SGF67 World Ladies Championship by SBS, which tees off at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in Hainan on Friday.

The field for 54-hole tri-sanctioned championship comprises 40 players each from the Ladies European Tour (LET), the China LPGA Tour and the Korean LPGA, as well as six sponsor invitations.

“I’m definitely excited to come back to the Blackstone course,” Bregman said.

“I’ve played a couple of the 10 courses here at Mission Hills, but I’ve always found the Blackstone the most challenging. It’s a shot-maker’s course and accuracy is at a premium, especially your positioning off the tees.

The Investec Property player tied for 22nd in her World Ladies Championship debut in 2013. However, she missed the cut in 2015 and Garcia missed in 2016.

“Nicole and I are both primed to make a strong start to build on,” said Bregman. “I think the Sunshine Ladies Tour definitely has us at an advantage. We’ve played a lot of golf at a variety of different courses and our games are sharp. We’ve also given ourselves enough time this year as opposed to two years ago. We’ve had the time to shake off the jetlag, adapt to the conditions and we are fighting fit to start on Friday.”

Garcia headed straight to China on the back of a third place finish in the Sunshine Ladies Tour season-finale at Millvale Private Retreat on Sunday.

Riding the confidence of placing fourth overall in the 2017 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies standings, Garcia agreed with Bregman’s assessment of the course and hopes her accuracy off the tee pays off this week.

“I think the Blackstone Course compares well to the Lost City or Millvale Private Retreat in terms of course management,” said the Benoni golfer. “The course was constructed over an old lava field. Errant tee shots will disappear in the rocks. You have to play percentage golf to score. It’s definitely a great test of golf.”

Meanwhile Buhai and Pace – both two-time winners on the local circuit this season – and Reto joins the action in the fifth LPGA Tour event, starting on Thursday at the Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.

It’s the second event of the season for 2017 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies winner Buhai, who missed the cut in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, while Pace and Reto are both heading into their third start of the season.

Investec Property’s Pace tied for 32nd in the Honda LPGA Thailand and finished 58th in the HSCB Women’s Champions in Singapore, while Reto missed the cut in Australia after a season-opening tie for 47th in the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

With the first Major for 2017 – the ANA Inspiration in California at the end of March – just two weeks away, the world-beaters have all shown up in Phoenix and the South African trio will have their work cut out going up against the likes of world number one Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lincicome, world number 10 and defending champion Sei Young Kim, as well as Inbee Park, who won the HSBC Women’s Champions a fortnight ago.

PHOTO – Stacy Bregman; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.