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25th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Scottish duo target sweet success in Soweto

25 February 2020 – Scottish hopefuls Gabrielle Macdonald and Hannah McCook are among a 30 international campaigners hoping to make their first visit to the Soweto Country Club this week a memorable one.

Macdonald and McCook are looking forward to teeing it up in the first round of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open at the iconic Gary Player-designed venue on Wednesday.

“We didn’t play the Joburg Ladies Open last year, and everyone raved about the event, so we planned for it this season,” said former Scottish Women’s Amateur champion MacDonald.

“We arrived in South Africa last week, happy to exchange snow and sub-zero temperatures for sunny skies, and all fired up for the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

“The wind blew really cold and hard, and it made a very tough par-3 championship course even tougher. Of course, everyone kept telling us we must be feeling right at home. It wasn’t quite the sunny start we dreamed of, but it was a fantastic way to kick off our Sunshine Ladies Tour campaign.”

Gabrielle Macdonald from Scotland in action during the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge at Serengeti Estates.

The Craigielaw golfer partnered Nicole Garcia and amateurs Daren Hanekom and Abri Kriegler to victory in the 36-hole pro-am, happy to put half of the R100 000 bonus on offer for the leading two professionals for two days’ work.

“I barely helped the team on day one, but I found my rhythm in the second round and I was happy to help the team with five birdies. Playing this event on the certainly Whistle Thorn course was probably the best way for Hannah and I to start our season here in South Africa,” said Macdonald.

“The course was very tough, with raised greens that were very slopey. The ball travels so much further in this part of the world, so we could adjust to the altitude and hone our short-games.”

McCook and Macdonald both turned professional on the back of very successful amateur careers with Scottish Golf. They made their debut in South Africa last year, but the transition has proven tough.

Scotland’s Hannah McCook in action during the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge at Serengeti Estates.

“We both did well on the Ladies European Tour Access Series, which definitely helped us to bridge the gap between amateur and pro golf, but unfortunately we didn’t make it at Q-School in January,” said McCook, a former Welsh and Irish Stroke Play champion.

“So we will be playing another season on the LET Access Series. It’s a really great circuit, though. We have a lot of tournaments and there is the opportunity to play your way onto the Ladies European Tour on the Order of Merit.

“We had a really great time out in South Africa last year, and because the LET Access only starts in April, we decided to come back. We’ll play the Jabra Ladies Classic next and the Investec SA Women’s Open before we head back. The Sunshine Ladies Tour is perfect for us to get the winter rust off and be competitive at the start of the 2020 season.”

The Scots already collected one Sunshine Ladies Tour trophy this season, thanks to Jane Turner going wire-to-wire in the Standard Bank South African Women’s Masters at San Lameer Country Club last week, but the Joburg Ladies Open is on everyone’s bucket list this year, including Lejan Lewthwaite, who is targeting a hat-trick of titles after her trophy finishes in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am and SuperSport Ladies Challenge.

Garcia, who celebrated a return to the winner’s circle at Serengeti after spending the bulk of the 2019 season on the bench after hip surgery, is another contender eager to reel in a second title.

The winner of the Joburg Ladies Open will bank the winner’s share worth R70 000 and 650 points towards the Investec Order of Merit race. Lewthwaite leads the current points list on 1 390 points from 2019 Joburg Ladies Open champion and Investec Order of Merit winner Nobuhle Dlamini (877.50 points).

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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.

20th February 2019 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Dark horse Berger banking on fast start at San Lameer 

19 February 2019 – There will be a dark horse lurking in the form of Brittney-Fay Berger when the South African Women’s Masters tees off at San Lameer Country Club on Thursday.

The 18-year-old Kloof Country Club member will be making just her fourth start as a golf professional, but has already notched up three top-25 finishes in as many events.

With the Sunshine Ladies Tour proving to be the perfect breeding ground for tomorrow’s talent, Berger is among a new generation of young talent ready to cut their teeth on the local scene.

In 2017, former South African number one ranked amateur Carrie Park picked up her maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour title in the SA Women’s Masters. She is now plying her trade on the lucrative Korean LPGA Tour.

Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck, meanwhile, tasted victory last year in the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, which paved her path to playing on to the Ladies European Tour this year.

“It’s been a bit different playing for money. I’ve been getting used to it though, and it’s really nice to have so many tournaments in a row like this. It gets a bit tiring, but if you manage your travelling it’s not too bad,” said Berger.

“It’s quite nice that I’m back home, I got back last night from the Dimension Data Challenge. I feel much better going into this week. I’m really enjoying it and playing in all these events.”

Showing little signs of nerves in her first event in the paid ranks, Berger finished 24th at the Canon Sunshine Ladies Tour Open in Irene at the end of January. A week later at the Serengeti Team Championship, she paired up with fellow rookie Casandra Hall as the duo finished tenth.

“It was amazing, and I was so happy to make the cut in my first start. That was my goal going at the start of the Sunshine Ladies Tour. I had a disappointing last round, but I was just happy to make the cut and earn some money. Once I made the cut, I just went for it on the last day – it didn’t work out but I was still really happy with my result. It makes it a bit easier for me – getting used to the players and how things are run.”

On Sunday last week in George a 16th place finish followed.

“I played at George Golf Club before, but I had never played the Outeniqua Course at Fancourt. So going into the last round, I was a bit blind. So I was happy with how it went and to be improving each week.”

The KwaZulu-Natal native could be a good bet for a first top-10 or better on the tricky and tight San Lameer layout.

“Being back home now is really nice as I know the courses,” said Berger. “I like San Lameer. It’s a very tricky course, especially when the wind comes up. I played there a couple times. I played in the ladies event there last year as an amateur and I didn’t make the cut. I’m hoping to improve on that.”

In fact, Berger has put her studies in medicine on hold to pursue her career in golf.

Few teenagers are faced with massive life decisions right after school, but it’s about living a life without regret she explained.

“I really wanted to study medicine, but it is a seven-year course so once I start there’s no real time for golf. Also I would really like to make golf my career. I decided to give myself a couple years – if I make it I’ll carry on and if I don’t I’m still not too old and I can go back and study. If I left the golf until later I might end up regretting not having tried it. It’s just trying to see if I’m good enough.

“I’m just thinking about the next five years or so. If I make quite a bit of money and I can afford to live off that, then I’ll carry on.”

There were also a host of new faces in George last week including Scotland’s Gabrielle MacDonald who made her debut on tour with an impressive sixth place finish, just five shots behind winner Nobuhle Dlamini.

MacDonald, a former member of the Scottish Golf Women’s National Squad, will hope to keep up the trend of young Scottish golfers who tend to excel on SA fairways, like GolfRSA African Amateur Champion Euan Walker.

Fellow Scottish Golf Women’s National Squad member Hannah McCook is another debutant heading to San Lameer.

The 25-year-old Gleneagles Country Club member, playing last year as an amateur, missed the cut in the SA Women’s Masters, but produced a solid top-15 finish at the Wild Coast a week later in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge. McCook could well feature this week knowing what to expect this time around on the windy south coast – much improved conditions from her native Scotland.

“Coming out this year as a professional is quite exciting. We play in the wind a lot at home, and playing here in the warmer temperatures made it a lot easier,” said the Nethy Bridge resident, who works part-time in housekeeping at a residential centre back home.

Another international hoping to make her presence felt will be Pasqualle Coffa from the Netherlands. The Eindhovensche Golf member was in contention for the first two rounds last week in George after rounds of 74 and 70, but was undone by a closing 77 to finish on five-over. Despite her disappointing third round, she finished only seven shots behind in 11th position on her own.

The former Dutch International Open champion could indeed be in contention in the next few weeks as she prepares for a season on the Ladies European Tour Access Series.

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Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.