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10th June 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Simon makes Major charge in Seattle

2016KPMG_AshSimon_SLTSouth Africa’s Ashleigh Simon capitalized on a resurgence in form to grab a share of fourth on day one of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Washington, Seattle.

Simon fired a one-under-par 70 at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish to finish three off the pace in Thursday’s first round. The 27-year-old Johannesburg golfer trails by three shots from Canadian Brooke Henderson, who holds a two stroke advantage over South Korean In-Kyung Kim and American Christina Kim.

The South African finds herself in some prestigious company in the logjam behind the leader.

She will start Friday’s second round alongside two of the LPGA Tour’s rising stars – Minjee Lee from Australia and Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand – as well former Major champion Suzann Pettersen from Norway, American Tiffany Joh and two-time LPGA Tour winner Hee Young Park from South Korea.

Simon made a faltering start to the 2016 season with a run of missed cuts, but she hit form in April and came into the second Major of the season on the back of a season’s best tie for 22nd in the Shoprite LPGA Classic in New Jersey on Sunday.

The four-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion burst from the blocks with a birdie start at the 10th and mixed gains at 13, 16 and 17 with bogeys at 14 and 18 to reach the turn in two under. Simon bogeyed the first and seventh on the back nine, but cancelled some of the damage with a birdie at five.

South Africa’s top ranked Lee-Anne Pace opened her tally with a three over 74 to tie for 49th.

The three-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion offset bogeys at one, eight and 12 with birdies at the second, seventh and 11th, but dropped further shots at 14, 15 and 18.

Paula Reto dropped four shots on the back nine for a 75 and LPGA Tour rookie Bertine Strauss will be hunting a low round on Friday after signing for an opening 78.

Henderson, ranked fourth in the world, holed a seven-iron from 152 yards (140 metres) at the par three fourth to record a fourth career ace and won a Kia 900, which she promptly gifted to her sister and caddie, Brittany.

Henderson has recorded nine consecutive worldwide top 10’s in 2016 and, although the Canadian hit just 10 out of 14 fairways and 10 greens, 23 putts ensured her two shot lead.

“A lot of my top-10s have come on Saturday and Sunday, so to start off with a pretty good round, is great; I was kind of feeding off the energy I had last year at KPMG,” said Henderson, who tied for fifth in 2015.

PHOTO – Ashleigh Simon; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.