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26th November 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

San Lameer gets SA Women’s Open nod

2014CICL_NicoleGarcia_SLTThe pace in the SA Women’s Open practice round was leisurely as Nicole Garcia leaned on her putter and watched Ekurhuleni amateur Lejan Lewthwaite used the flat stick to send a few balls towards the 18th hole at San Lameer Country Club.

Near the clubhouse, Monique Smit from Southern Cape was catching up with Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland and Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann, while Port Shepstone twins Melissa Eaton and Nicola Eaton-Gutzeit basked in the sunny weather on the Hibiscus Coast of KwaZulu-Natal while shooting the breeze with England’s Anna Scott.

“As Sunday’s first round approaches, the practice sessions will become more focussed and the sense of urgency will increase considerably, but for today, we just enjoyed the reunion and the beauty of the course,” said Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Garcia.

“We didn’t know what to expect because the region is in the grips of a drought, but we have been blown away by the condition of the course. It’s like walking on a long emerald carpet.

“The recent rain has greened up the course and the greens are superb; even better than last year.”

Twelve months ago, San Lameer Country Club provided the stage to a thrilling final round when Lee-Anne Pace defeated England’s Holly Clyburn in a playoff to lift the 2014 title.

Garcia believes it’s the perfect venue to launch the Sunshine Tour’s 2016 Chase to the Investec Cup.

“This is the kind of course that really tests your course management,” the Ladies European Tour campaigner said.

“They have removed some trees to open up the fairways, but the course is still very tight. The greens are slopey and require a lot of attention and there are some really challenging tee-shots.

“You can’t afford to bomb it here. You have to plan your tee shot to leave yourself the best shot into the right said of the green or you will pay the price. It’s a great test for our national championship and the right kind of course to set the tone for the 2016 season.

“Many of us have returned with more confidence and experience, including the amateurs who competed here last year. I think the challenge will be a lot tighter this year.”

Two-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Smit agreed.

“When we started our practice round, there wasn’t a drop of wind, but when the wind came up this afternoon, it really became tough,” Smit said.

“The greens are superb and roll true, but there are a lot of subtle undulations and you have to hit the right spot to score.”

Shawnelle de Lange shared the Jackie Mercer Trophy as the leading amateur in last year’s event.

The Gauteng amateur also arrived early to get reacquainted with the course.

“It was very intimidating last year to play with the pros, but competing on the Sunshine Ladies Tour took care of that fear of failing,” she said.

“I am here to defend my amateur title, but I have raised my expectations and I am really excited about this year’s championship.

“I think your first time in a SA Women’s Open is a bit of a blur, but the course it not as intimidating as last year, either. I came down early to work on my game plan. You need a plan A for when there is no wind and a plan B for when the fans switch on.”

PHOTO – Nicole Garcia; credit Carl Fourie