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26th March 2022 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Dream Joburg Ladies Open win seals Grant’s SA hat-trick

It was a dream start to life on the Ladies European Tour (LET) for Linn Grant, as the Swedish star claimed a five-shot victory at the Joburg Ladies Open in her first start as a full member.

The victory for Grant was her third in the last month on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, having claimed success in the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and Jabra Ladies Classic in February.

And she completed her South African hat-trick in style on Saturday, with the rest of the field having no answer for her incredible final round at Modderfontein Golf Club.

The 22-year-old from Helsingborg shared the lead with Spain’s Maria Hernandez on five-under at the 36-hole mark, but she was a cut above the rest over the last 18 holes, firing a six-under-par 67 to triumph on 11-under 208. 

“It’s always nice to get a win; it feels amazing,” said the smiling Grant. “It was great to come to the Sunshine Ladies Tour before the LET season began to make the most of the good weather and get some practice in.

“I still feel like there’s some scary holes here, especially coming in on the back nine. You have to keep your shots together and there’s a couple of holes you have to look out for on the front nine as well, so I tried not to do anything stupid really.” 

The 2017 Ping Junior Solheim Cup star showed no signs of nerves as she registered birdies on the first and second holes to create an early gap ahead of the chasing pack, before picking up another shot on the fifth to carve open a sizeable gap. 

She immediately negated a bogey on the sixth with birdies on seven and eight, turning at nine-under with her nearest challenge, Kim Metraux, four shots back.

A fifth birdie from off the green on 13 took Grant to double digits, and with the gallery watching as she walked down the last, she picked up one more shot on the 18th, the latest in a series of perfectly executed approaches onto the final green setting up a grandstand finish.

Grant, who earned cards for the 2022 LET and LPGA Tour at Q-School last year, had already shown her calibre with two runner-up finishes in 2021, making the most of invitations to the Didriksons Skaftö Open and the Creekhouse Ladies Open.

“I feel like with the two events in Sweden last year I got used to the LET a bit, so coming here this week wasn’t that huge a gap to cross, but still it was my first event,” said Grant.

Despite a four-shot cushion on the last hole, she admitted to feeling a little nervy over the final approach shot and putt. But her second turned out to be one of the best of the day. “I was going to aim pin high and to the right, but I changed at the last minute to go for it. The putt wasn’t that short, so it was nervy, but I was so happy I got it done with a birdie.”

It was a career-best finish for left-hander Metraux in South Africa.

The Swiss star maintained her good form from Friday into the weekend and reeled in four birdies on her way to a final day score of 71 (-2), capitalising on the par five first, eighth and tenth holes to pick up shots on her way to a sole second finish.

“It was quite good. I made a few mistakes here and there, and I had a couple of lip-outs but I was pleased with how I played again,” said the 26-year-old Swiss golfer of her first top 10 finish since last September.

Nicole Garcia was the highest finishing South African, coming home in two-under 71 to tie for third alongside 2020 Investec South African Women’s Open Alice Hewson from England (72) and Hernandez (73). 

Garcia began the day with back-to-back birdies to start her day, but bogeys on three and seven dropped her back to level par. She responded brilliantly with an eagle on the eighth and parred her way to successive top 10 finishes in as many LET tournaments this season. 

“My strike was better today, but I couldn’t get any momentum going with the putter on the back nine,” Garcia said. “I am happy to see my game trend in the right direction, though and hopefully that trend continues to the Investec South African Women’s Open at Steenberg next week.”

Proudly South African, the Johannesburg-native welcomed the move from the City of Johannesburg to take the tournament to co-sanctioned status.

“The Joburg Ladies Open has always been really popular, and we local golfers are so incredibly grateful to Bongi Mokaba and the City of Johannesburg for this move. To have two chances to gain winner’s status on the LET is a huge incentive for us,” she said. “But you know, even if you don’t win, just to have the international competition on our shores for two weeks is massive, especially for the young pros who can’t afford to compete abroad.”

Investec stable-mate Stacy Lee Bregman and Alexandra Swayne from US Virgin Islands tied for seventh on two-under, while GolfRSA’s No 1-ranked amateur Isabella van Rooyen finished third highest a further two shot adrift in the tie for 11th. 

Grant’s earlier victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour moved her to the summit of the Investec Order of Merit, and she is virtually untouchable on 3 032 points, with Garcia her nearest challenger for the title on 1 224. The Swede also banked 500 points with the win to take pole position in the 2022 Race to Costa Del Sol alongside Aramco Saudi Ladies International winner Georgia Hall and Magical Kenya Ladies Open victor Esther Henseleit.

25th March 2022 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Grant sets up hat-trick of SA wins in the Joburg Ladies Open

Sweden’s Linn Grant moved in on a maiden Ladies European Tour win with a four-under 69 on moving day to co-lead the Joburg Ladies Open, while South Africa’s Nicole Garcia is still very well-placed in the chasing pack with one round to go in the co-sanctioned event at Modderfontein Golf Club.

The reigning Investec Order of Merit leader – already a two-time winner in her rookie season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour – made the most of an early start and windless conditions to move into pole position.

Grant’s clubhouse target looked to go unchallenged until first round leader Maria Hernandez from Spain overcame a bogey-start late in the day and signed for a one-under 72 to grab a share of the lead in the €250 000 event on five-under 141.

The pair will start the final round one shot clear of 2020 Investec South African Women’s Open champion Alice Hewson from England, who carded 70, and Kim Metraux from Switzerland, whose 68 was the low round of the day.

Local favourite Garcia fired a 71 to finish two off the pace in a tie for fifth with American Kelly Whaley (69), Frenchwoman Emma Grechi (71) and Alexandra Swayne from the US Virgin Islands, who returned respective rounds of 69, 71 and 72.

Welsh golfer Becky Morgan is also still in the mix at two-under after a round of 70.

It was a tale of resilience for Grant, who opened with a 69 in the blustery first round conditions. After an opening birdie, the 22-year-old recovered admirably from a bogey and double bogey on the third and fourth holes with an eagle on the par-five fifth to pull herself back up the leaderboard.

The wind-still conditions early in the day also helped for the 2017 PING Junior Solheim Cup player on the homeward loop. She reeled in birdies on the par-fives (10 and 13) and the par-three 14th to put herself in a great position to challenge for victory.

 “I had a good day out there. I didn’t really get the putts rolling in, but I played well on the par-fives, so I managed to get a good score,” Grant said. 

“There was no wind, and the weather was really nice. I just thought I had a lot of birdies in me, but then I started stumbling a little bit. I hit a great shot into five and had a tap in eagle to get back level, and then it carried on from there.”

Grant is no stranger to taking victory on South African soil, having already tasted success twice on the Sunshine Ladies Tour in the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and the Jabra Ladies Classic last month.

Her hopes of making it three wins in four events on the Sunshine Ladies Tour were boosted with Friday’s strong showing, as she made the most of her length off the tee to give herself plenty of scoring opportunities. 

And with the chance to claim an LET title in her first event as a full member, the Swede is looking to keep that momentum going heading into the final day. 

“I gave myself better angles into the greens off the tee on the par-fives today and shorter approaches, so I kept going for the greens and two-putted my way to birdies. The finish here is quite tough so I tried to keep it simple,” she said.

“I’m going to stick to the same strategy, but I’m going to be on my toes a little bit. I’ll be a little bit more aggressive on the pins and hit the putts a little bit harder.”

Hernandez, whose last visit to the winner’s circle was at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open 12 years ago, produced a steadier second round.

Things didn’t start brilliantly for the 36-year-old, as she dropped a shot on the tenth – her opening hole – but birdies on the 13th and fifth negated another dropped shot on 15, before she made hay on the par-five eighth to finish one shot to the good.

“It wasn’t as easy as yesterday. I was hitting good shots but with too much club. I played solid, but I struggled a little bit on the greens today but at least I finished well and made some good putts coming in,” she said. “If I’m telling the truth I don’t think about winning. Tomorrow is a new day and a new challenge, so I’ll just go out and try to play my best. 

“There will be so many challenges and we don’t know what is going to happen, so I just have to play shot by shot. If, at the end of the day, everything goes well then great, and if not, you have to take the positives and go into the next week.”

A host of players still capable of making a late break including Garcia, the leading South African, who is also chasing a maiden LET victory. She still struggled with her swing, but a hot putter kept her contention.

“I started a bit slow and didn’t take advantage of birdie opportunities on the par fives on the front nine that I could reach, which was a little disappointing, but other than that I’m happy with the result,” said the Ebotse golfer, who offset a lone bogey with a trio of birdies.

“I’m still struggling with the strike, especially on the approach shots with the longer irons, but I’ll go work on it later and hopefully I can make the most of the scorable holes tomorrow. The putter is behaving well and it helped me a lot to make crucial par saves, so that’s a big positive to take into the final round.”

The next best South African is GolfRSA’s No 1-ranked amateur Isabella van Rooyen, who is making the most of her sponsor’s invitation.

The Clovelly golfer fired three birdies to negate a lone bogey for a 72 to finish in the tie for 10th on one-under. “I’m really happy with my performance so far,” said the 19-year-old. “I said before the start of the tournament that my only goals were to make the cut and to improve on my previous results, and so far, so good. I’ve really enjoyed the tournament so far and I’m looking forward to the final round, because it presents another opportunity for me build experience and learn from my playing partners.”

24th March 2022 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Happy Hernandez leads the Joburg Ladies Open

Maria Hernandez gave herself the perfect birthday present – a two-shot lead in the opening round of the €250 000 Joburg Ladies Open – on Thursday.

The Spaniard made the most of an early start and the tranquil conditions at Modderfontein Golf Club to fire a four-under-par 69 that featured five birdies to set the early clubhouse lead that went unchallenged in the Sunshine Ladies Tour and Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned event.

The 36-year-old got off to the ideal start with birdies on the third and sixth holes.

Her only dropped shot of the day came at the ninth, but she bounced back with a brace of the birdies on the 14th and 15th holes and knocked in a birdie putt at the closing hole to take the lead.

With the wind swirling in the afternoon and her target going unchallenged, Hernandez was delighted with her work on foreign soil.

“I played really solid today; I managed to stay out of trouble, and when I needed to I made up-and-downs, so it was a solid round,” she said.  

“The course is in great shape and the greens are really good. When the wind picked it up it made it a bit more challenging, but the greens were in good shape, so that was a plus. The back nine is trickier. On the front nine you have the three par-fives, so it’s easier to have a chance for birdies, but I actually played better on the back nine, so I’ll take it.

“It’s my third time out here and I love South Africa. I like the people; I love the environment and I always enjoy it when I come here.”

Alexandra Swayne from the US Virgin Islands, Germany’s Luisa Dittrich, Smilla Soenderby from Denmark and Italy’s Virginia Carte tied for second on two-under.

Swayne made her Ladies European Tour debut in January and the 21-year-old made an impressive start event on South African soil.

“I started on the back nine and I was even par, and I knew the front nine was going to be difficult, but I finished with an eagle and birdie, so it doesn’t feel like I shot two-under because I finished like that, but it was okay,” Swayne said.

“This is my third LET event so it’s been interesting. There’s a lot of travel for me from the Virgin Islands, but I’ve enjoyed it. I have no expectations – I go out there and have fun and hope a few putts drop. Golf’s a crazy game; you just have to go out and play your game.” 

South Africans Nicole Garcia and Ivanna Samu finished a further stroke back in a tie for eighth.

Samu was still in amateur when the event was played at Modderfontein in 2018, and she finished joint second behind the champion Ashleigh Buhai. Back to full strength after a two-year battle with cancer, she got off to an eagle-birdie start and turned six-under, but three bogeys and a double-bogey on 14 put paid to all her earlier efforts.

“I struggled in the wind coming home, but I’m happy nevertheless just to be out there and competing again,” said the smiling 23-year-old. “I played a lot of golf here as an amateur and I know how tough the back nine can be in the wind. But I’m still happy with the start and hopefully I can build on it tomorrow.

In-form Garcia, hunting a first LET win and riding the confidence of a top 10 finish in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International last weekend, also made a strong start with a trio of birdies in her first four holes. But she gave back two shots on 15 and 17 and two more bogeys on the back nine saw her slip into a tie for eighth.

“It was a little bit messy,” Garcia said. “My ball striking wasn’t on today, which made it a bit difficult, especially off the tee and I had a few bogeys. I’m happy with the end result, though. Considering I wasn’t hitting it 100%, there were a lot of positives to build on for tomorrow. 

“The wind picked up and there’s was a storm coming in. This course isn’t so easy when you have a wind gusting to compete with, but I think I will have the better side of the draw tomorrow morning with a storm forecast in the afternoon.”

Sweden’s Linn Grant – a two-time winner on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this season and the current Investec Order of Merit Leader – and 2020 Investec South African Women’s Open champion Alice Hewston from England are also in the bus at one-under alongside Manon De Roey from Belgium, Finland’s Noora Komulainen and Frenchwoman Emma Grechi.

23rd March 2022 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Joburg Ladies Open breaking new ground in 2022

The leading lights of South African women’s professional golf have been presented with a massive opportunity as the Ladies European Tour rolls into town for the Joburg Ladies Open, teeing off on Thursday.

After six years as part of the Sunshine Ladies Tour, the Joburg Ladies Open has graduated to a jointly sanctioned event this year, boasting an increased purse of €250 000 and offering a Ladies European Tour (LET) exemption for the champion.

These incentives have fired up the local campaigners, but they have also attracted a strong international field of players representing 27 countries to Modderfontein Golf Club – the site of Ashleigh Buhai’s 2018 success in the third edition of the popular Sunshine Ladies Tour stop.

“The Joburg Ladies Open has been hugely successful since its introduction on the Sunshine Ladies Tour in 2016 and we are confident that the event will enjoy even more success as a co-sanctioned event in 2022,” said Bongi Mokaba, City of Johannesburg Director: Event Management.

“Not only does the Joburg Ladies Open serve an important role in helping to stimulate the South African economy amidst the COVID-19 recovery, but many of our regular Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners were negatively impacted by the travel restrictions levied over the last two years. This year’s champion will not only take home the lion’s share of a purse worth €250 000, but gain playing privileges in Europe at the start of the season. We are so delighted as the City of Johannesburg to play a part in launching the career of the next champion while inspiring the next generation of future stars of the game.”

Two-time Ladies European Tour champion Julia Engström from Sweden will headline the international field in the 54-hole showpiece alongside Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord, Englishwoman Alice Hewston and Swedish rookie Linn Grant, who have all tasted success on South African soil.

Skarpnord has lifted to trophies in South Africa – first the 2013 SA Women’s Open and then last year, when she lifted the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge title. Hewston won the 2020 Investec South African Women’s Open Championship in her first Ladies European Tour start, while Grant has visited the winner’s circle twice in her rookie season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this year, with victories in the Jabra Ladies Classic and Dimension Data Ladies Challenge.

Two more players to watch are Johanna Gustavsson from Sweden and Kristyna Napoleaova from the Czech Republic, who tied for second in Jeddah and catapulted to third and fifth respectively in the Race to Costa del Sol.

American Kelly Whaley will also be making her debut on South African soil, coming off a course-record-equalling nine-under-par 63 in the final round at the Royal Greens that featured a new LET tournament record of eight consecutive birdies.

The foreign contingent can expect to face strong challenges from the home front, led by defending champion Casandra Alexander (nee Hall), 2016 winner Lee-Anne Pace and Nicole Garcia, who are currently placed third, fourth and fifth in the rankings.

After a delayed start to the season, Alexander hit the ground running following her honeymoon with a runner-up finish in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge and a tie for fourth in the Jabra Ladies Classic.

Pace backed up a runner-up finish on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and a top five in her first LET start with two more top-four finishes at home. The reigning Investec South African Women’s Open champion will be eager to hunt down an 11th LET tournament title, while in-form Garcia returns to Modderfontein on the back of a top-10 finish last weekend in the Saudi Ladies International.

Other notable players expected to shoot for glory include 2021 Ladies Italian Open champion Lucie Malchirand from France, Sunshine Ladies Tour champions Lejan Lewthwaite, Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland – the winner in 2020 – and Stacy Bregman.

Rising young stars on the home front to look out for include Cara Gorlei, currently sixth in the rankings, Zethu Myeki and Nadia van der Westhuizen, who broke her duck in the season-opening SunBet Cape Town Ladies Open. GolfRSA’s leading amateur Isabella van Rooyen will also be looking to make the most of her sponsor’s invitation to build experience playing in the star-studded field.

Spectators are welcome to attend, and entry is free, providing they can provide proof of vaccination, or a Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours. The second and final rounds of the Joburg Ladies Open will be televised on SuperSport Channel 213 from 09h00 to 14h00.

30th April 2021 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Heaven for Hall as she takes the Joburg Ladies Open

30 April 2021 – Casandra Hall sealed a hard-fought for Sunshine Ladies Tour victory when she prevailed in an epic tussle with Lee-Anne Pace, to win the Joburg Ladies Open by one shot at Soweto Country Club on Friday.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said the smiling 21-year-old. “I won twice on the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series and the Investec Royal Swazi Ladies Open at Sun City, but all of those were against a handful of players. This feels like a maiden win; beating a full field is an incredible feeling.”

The Glendower golfer was paired with the Tour’s most prolific winner Pace, who held a two-shot overnight lead and was targeting a 14th title on Africa’s premier women’s professional circuit.

“We arrived in the rain to find a water-logged course and we didn’t think we’d play. Hats off the green staff and the Sunshine Ladies Tour officials, who worked so hard to make it happen. Play was delayed by two and a half hours, but finally we got going,” explained the 2021 champion.

“The course played a lot different to the first two days. The fairways were softer and not running as much and the greens were sitting. I actually got frustrated because now that you could target the pins, I wasn’t hitting fairways and didn’t have shots into the greens.

“We both had a couple of dropped shots, but I just kept pushing on and tried my best to stay patient.”

Hall dropped on the first hole, Pace on the second. When Pace bogeyed the fourth, Hall’s brace of birdies on the third and fourth holes handed her the lead for the first time, but she lost the advantage when she incurred a penalty at the par four fifth.

“I was in bunker and I hit out. I thought I was in the fairway, so I marked and picked up the ball, but my playing partner Maiken (Bing Paulsen) came over and she didn’t think it was in the fairway. We called a rules official and unfortunately I got a one-shot penalty. I was already making bogey already, and ended up with a double.”

The gap shrunk again when Pace dropped on the sixth, but Hall bogeyed the eighth. “When we walked past the leaderboard, I realised I was only one shot behind,” Hall said. “I knew I’d have to knuckle down and chase hard.”

“Lee-Anne made five straight pars, but I birdied the par-5 (13th) to draw level. I dropped again on 14, but then she dropped on the next hole and we were level again. The last four holes were tense. That putt on 18 was nerve-wracking, but I made it to come away with a W.”

Hall got into the Saudi Ladies International on the Ladies European Tour late last year, where she holed the winning putt for the International Team in the Team Competition. She came home inspired and more determined to make this season of the Sunshine Ladies Tour count.

“I worked really hard on my game, with my mental coach and in the gym. You can’t put all that effort in without reward, so I stayed positive and patient,” said Hall. “It’s a great feeling to get this win with the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and the Investec SA Women’s Open still coming up. It’s given me a lot of confidence, knowing I can beat a full field, as well.”

Hall’s R70 000 pay-day also came with a healthy dose of ranking points. She moved to second in the Investec Order of Merit, while Pace’s runner-up finish pushed her to summit. She leads with 950 points and is 140 points ahead of Hall.

Paulsen placed sixth in her first start at the Gary Player Country Club last week and secured a third place finish on three-over with a closing 74 at Soweto Country Club. The Norwegian moved into the eighth spot in the rankings.

SuperSport Ladies Challenge winner Michaela Fletcher is fourth in the points standings after carding a solid 73 in the final round to take fourth place on four-over.

Defending champion Monique Smit and eSwatini’s Nobuhle Dlamini, the champion in 2019, both carded level par rounds to tie for fifth on five-over with French golfer Astrid Vayson De Predenne, who recorded 74.

The Sunshine Ladies Tour next travels to the picturesque Garden Route and the eighth playing of the popular Dimension Data Ladies Challenge in George from 6-8 May. All three rounds will be contested on the Outeniqua Course at Fancourt.  Prize money is R600 000, while the leading 10 pro-am teams will also contest for a R100 000 bonus prize.

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

Lali Stander

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28th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Smit claims emotional victory in Soweto

28 February 2020 – Monique Smit claimed an emotional fourth Sunshine Ladies Tour title at the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open, where she tapped in for par at the final hole to emerge from an enthralling finale with a one-shot victory.

Almost exactly a month ago, the South African won a four-way play-off to clinch the 20th and final card on offer for the 2020 Ladies European Tour season at the final stage of the LET Qualifying School in Spain.

The 28-year-old George golfer brought that same big match temperament to Soweto Country Club on the final day to edge out overnight leader Sideri Vanova with a two-under-par 70 to triumph on one-under 217.

Vanova from the Czech Republic started the day with a seven shot advantage, but the Oubaai golfer started to close the gap in impressive fashion with birdies at the second and third holes.

“I hit a solid 8-iron straight at the pin, four feet short of the hole and boxed the putt for birdie,” said Smit. “On third, I managed to get it on for two. It should have dropped for eagle, but just slipped past and I had a tap-in birdie.”

Smit bounced back from a double bogey on the fourth with another gain on the par four fifth and countered a drop on the eight with a birdie on nine to turn one-under.

“The fourth was just an oops on the scorecard. On five, I took a lesser club and hit it hard and I got a favourable kick on to the upper tier of the green and holed a beautiful 15-footer for birdie. And I made another solid birdie on nine to keep the momentum going.”

Vanova – chasing a career first victory in her debut on the South African women’s professional golf circuit – aided Smit’s challenge when she dropped five shots on the outward loop.

With her lead cut to just one shot, the Czech golfer started the back nine with five straight pars, but Smit matched her shot for shot, including answering Vanova’s birdie on the par four 15th with one of her own.

“The birdie on 15 was a super lucky one. I hit a good 3-wood down the fairway and I took a three-quarter wedge into the green because we had a bit if wind from behind. I started it out a fraction to the right and I got such a good member’s bounce. It stopped five feet from the pin, and I knocked it in to stay one shot behind Sideri.”

Both players had just hit their second shots into the 16th when play was suspended for dangerous conditions.

A heavy 60-minute downpour during the nearly three hour suspension had left the firm greens a little more receptive, but the already penalising rough absolutely brutal. Smit made a superb par from the back of the green, while Vanova failed to capitalise on a 12 footer for birdie on 16.

“Sideri took on the pin on 17 (par three). She overshot the green and caught a bad bounce that left her in the trees. She dropped another shot and I made a good par to level the score,” Smit said.

On 18, the 30-year-old Czech paid the price of an errant drive when she leaked her tee shot left into the rough. Smit’s percentage golf earned her a share of the lead on the penultimate hole and a cautious 3-wood off the tee on the final hole set her up for the win.

“The rough had been so punishing on a dry day, but with the rain it was like chewing gum. Sideri hit her second shot with absolutely everything she had, but she only advanced it a few metres. She hit a magnificent third out of the rough, though and was about 15 feet short right of the pin,” Smit explained.

“I was well behind her with the 3-wood off the tee and had the advantage of going first. I just wanted to find the putting surface when I saw her in the rough. I lagged my first putt to half a foot and she nearly holed her putt. Unfortunately it pulled up short and I had the par putt for the win.”

Smit was visibly emotional in a post-round interview and dedicated the victory to her mom Rejeanne, who passed away last year. “Mom was always on the bag over six seasons on the Sunshine Ladies Tour. She was on the bag for my first win in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am in 2014 and she shared in all my great moments and the not-so-great ones,” said the 28-year-old.

“She was my best friend and my biggest supporter and the hardest thing I ever had to do was to lay my mom to rest. To come into the final day with a seven-shot deficit was nothing compared to that. I could hear her tell me just give an extra 10% and I did that today.

“I tried to win the Joburg Ladies Open for four years, and finally Bongi Mokaba from the City of Joburg has given me the trophy. I am so proud of the way I achieved it. Soweto Country Club demands respect and rewards it, and that is what I did for 54 holes. I stayed true to my game plan to hit fairways and greens and to show the course respect. I’m absolutely over the moon with this result.

. I am so proud of the way I achieved it. Soweto Country Club demands respect and rewards it, and that is what I did for 54 holes. I stayed true to my game plan to hit fairways and greens and to show the course respect. I’m absolutely over the moon with this result.

“I want to congratulate Sideri on a wonder start to her season. Her smile never wavered, no matter what happened out there and she is a wonderful ambassador for the game, a great example to other pros and a fantastic role model for the youth. I’m sure we will be seeing more of her in the next two weeks.”

Vanova closed with a round of 78 to seal a runner-up finish, while Stacy Bregman took third on six-over with her final round 73. Fourteen-year-old Stephanie Barbaglia won the leading amateur prize. The Bryanston golfer carded rounds of 73, 79 and 76 to tie for seventh.

The Sunshine Ladies Tour travels to Glendower Golf Club next week for the R600 000 Jabra Ladies Classic, where the international field will fight it out for the winner’s share and a spot in the Jabra Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour from 4-6 March.

This is the penultimate event before the season wraps up with Investec SA Women’s Open at Westlake Golf Club from 12-14 March.

The Sunshine Ladies Tour showpiece, co-sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour and the Women’s PGA of South Africa, boasts a €200 000 prize fund and the winner not only earns exemption on the Ladies European Tour until the end of 2021, but will tee it up in two Majors this year – the AIG British Women’s Open and the Evian Championship.

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

27th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Vanova eyes maiden glory in Joburg Ladies Open

27 February 2020 – Sideri Vanova took one huge step towards a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour title after the Czech opened up a commanding lead heading into the final round of the Joburg Ladies Open in Soweto.

Vanova threatened to run away with the title during the first 12 holes of the second round, carding birdies on the second and fifth holes and racking up three more after the turn at Soweto Country Club.

However, four bogeys on the bounce from the par four 13th pegged her back and she moved to a four-under total after solid pars saw her closing with a one-under 71.

No-one in the closing pack jumped at the chance to close gap, although Monique Smit managed to cling to second place. The Oubaai golfer will start the final round a yawning seven-shots off the pace on three-over, after mixing a lone birdie with five birdies for a 76.

Two promising stars – Lindi Coetzee from Hartebeespoort Dam and Dutch rookie Zhen Bonton – both surged to four-over with level par rounds of 72. The duo share third with three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Kim Williams, who registered a 75 after a double bogey finish.

Indian’s Sharmila Nicollet, Stacy Bregman, Investec Order of Merit leader Lejan Lewthwaite and rookie Tara Griebenow were all a shot further back on five over.

The second round belonged to one woman only and Vanova was thrilled to start her season with such a strong performance in the R500 000 showpiece in Soweto.

“It’s definitely not what I expected; to be leading in my first start is a huge surprise,” said the Dubai-based golfer.

“I’m really pleased to be in such a strong position, because I put a lot of hard work in with my coach in the off-season. We changed my swing, my short-game, my putting…we basically changed everything and I was nervous to see how the changes would hold up. It will be good to see if I can keep it going for one more round.”

Vanova’s was the only sub-par round on the second day and she was philosophical about the four shots she squandered on the homeward loop.

“Today was an up and down round,” she said. “I started off really well, but it got really tough on the back nine. The greens were very firm. I found them much harder today than in the first round and it was difficult to control your approach shots.

“On 13, I pitched it just short of the green after a perfect drive. The ball took one bounce onto the green and another bounce and shot off the back and I couldn’t up-and-down. On 14 I was a bit more cautious with the approach and ended up three-putting from 50 metres.

“I had two bad breaks and I made two mistakes. These things happen in this game, but it broke my flow and it took me a while to get it back. I was happy to finish with two good pars. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now.

“The course was really tricky, because if you miss the fairway you are in deep grass and you battle to save par. When you add the firm greens, I am not surprised at the scoring.”

Vanova has barely missed a fairway in 36 holes and her on-song short-game has served up nine birdies in two sub-par rounds. Behind her, her challengers have been paying the price of errant tee shots and pin-seeking approaches.

“I drove it really well, but one or two iron shots got away from me. But it felt like a different golf course out there, because the greens were way firmer than in the first round,” said Smit. “We were able to stop the ball on the greens on day one, but today we struggled and you had to watch your pace on the putts not to rush them five to 10 feet past.”

Bontan was one of the few campaigners who improved on day two and the former Dutch National champion said better driving helped her to shave four shots off an opening 76.

“I put myself in much positions off the tee and gave myself opportunities to get on the green. I did have two bogeys, but I got it back to level with birdies on four and 10 and made some solid pars the rest of the way.”
The 22-year-old Woudenberg golfer described the Gary Player-layout as a really good test. “You need to be accurate off the tees, you must have a solid short game and a hot putter.

“It’s a really fantastic layout and in really good condition, and I love that I got to play my first Sunshine Ladies Tour event here. This is a great way for me to ease into my pro career and to build some form for the LET Assess Series, which starts in April.”

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

26th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Vanova delighted to lead the way in Soweto

26 February 2020 – Sideri Vanova didn’t know what to expect when she teed it up in the Joburg Ladies Open on Wednesday, but the Czech was pleasantly surprised to get her 2020 campaign off to a flying start at the Soweto Country Club.

Vanova fired a three-under-par 69 in her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut to lead the field, finishing one shot clear of Maria Beautell from Spain and two strokes ahead of birthday girl Monique Smit.

Scotland’s Jane Turner – who won her second title at San Lameer Country Club just last Friday – went around the Gary Player-designed layout in 72 strokes to finish alone in fourth, with Kim Williams, Investec Order of Merit winner Lejan Lewthwaite and Bryanston amateur Stephanie Barbaglia a further stroke adrift.

Vanova reeled in four birdies – including consecutive gains on 14 and 15 – to turn four-under, but interrupted a string of pars on her homeward loop with a lone bogey at the par three seventh.

“I switched coaches at the end of last year and spent the entire off-season on swing changes. I really didn’t know what to expect when I put my game under pressure, but I think it went well,” said the 31-year-old Ladies European Tour campaigner. “I was really consistent off the tee with the driver and the irons and I was very accurate with my approach shots. That was really key for me. We worked a lot of tightening up my short-game and the whole game came together well today.”

Vanova’s only previous visit to South Africa was during the 2018 Investec South African Women’s Open, which is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Ladies Tour. Instead of following the Ladies European Tour to Australia, she decided to kick off her season in the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open to hone her game for this year’s €200 000 showpiece at Westlake next month.

“It’s such a long trip from Australia to South Africa, so I am really happy with my decision. I stayed in Dubai to work with my coach and came out for this week and the Jabra Ladies Classic next week to get the game in shape,” she said.

“It’s only an eight-hour flight to South Africa and I will have two extra days in Cape Town to adjust to sea level. The Sunshine Ladies Tour is very competitive, so it’s a great circuit to have to get ready. There are about 30 of us in the field this week, so it looks like a lot of other internationals have elected to play the Sunshine Ladies Tour this year, instead of Australia.”

Beautell is a past SA Women’s Masters champion and has been a staunch supporter of the Sunshine Ladies Tour for the last seven years. “I love coming out to the South Africa every year to prepare for the start of the season, which is usually around April for me,” said Beautell.

The Tenerife golfer mixed five birdies with two bogeys on her front nine, but racked up nine straight pars coming home. “It was a bit up-and-down, but I definitely control my game better on the last nine holes,” she said. “That’s how I would like to start tomorrow. I had a good start to the season with a top 12 finish in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am and was top seven at San Lameer, so I’m moving in the right direction.”

Birthday girl Monique Smit was happy to lead the South African challenge on day one of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open at Soweto Country Club; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour

Smit, coming off back-to-back top five finishes, had three birdies on the bounce from the par five 12th after a birdie start, but let the lead slip with bogeys on 17, six and seven.

“The course is really tight and if you are just a metre of so off the fairway, you are punished quite severely and that’s what happened to me,” said the Oubaai golfer.

“I made three really good birdies early on and held the momentum, but paid the price for not hitting fairways on the back nine. I’m more than happy to be one-under and just two behind. There still a lot of golf to be played.”

Fourteen-year-old Bryanston amateur Stephanie Barbaglia – playing alongsidefirst round leader Sideri Vanova from the Czech Republic, sits just four shots off the pace in joint fifth after the first round of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open at Soweto Country Club.

Barbaglia, playing with Vanova for the first two rounds, was impressed with the leaders’ course management. “I wanted to play with the pros to learn from them and watching Sideri out there was incredible,” said the 14-year-old Gauteng junior.

“She barely missed a fairway and her approach shots were very accurate; just once or twice she got a hard bounce, but most of the time she was within two or three feet from the hole. I really saw how important a good short game is and I’m excited to play with her again on Thursday.”

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




25th February 2020 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Soweto Country Club in top condition for Joburg Ladies Open

25 February 2020 – The Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners were full of praise for the Soweto Country Club green-keeping staff ahead of Wednesday’s first round of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open.

Seeing the course for the first time, three-time champion Nicole Garcia was positively gushing about the greens.

“I didn’t play last year because I was still on the bench after my hip surgery. The girls told me that the greens were incredibly firm, and the fairways were still patchy but I saw none of that today,” said the Ebotse golfer – the most recent trophy recipient after a double victory in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge on Sunday.

“I was so pleasantly surprised. The course is a great test like every other Gary Player design and the greens are beautiful. The green-staff must have worked incredibly hard in the last 12 months. You can go for a lot of the pins this year, and we will see a lot more birdies. Everyone that played last year can’t stop gushing. The staff can be so proud of what they have achieved in just a short year.”

Three-time winner Monique Smit echoed Garcia’s sentiments.

“It was amazing to see the difference,” exclaimed the Oubaai golfer. “I told my caddie – the same one I had this year – walking to the first tee that we will have to plan for the firm greens, but they have settled so incredibly well. The greens are receptive and the fairways have grown in nicely. It was super-fun playing the pro-am, and watching our seeing our partners making birdies.

“This is probably one of the tightest courses we play all season, and you are going to have to keep it in play and stay out of the trees if you want to go low. Keep finding the greens. Keep it simple.”

Former South African Open champion Tandi McCallum and rookie Casandra Hall chased champion Nobuhle Dlamini all the way to the finish line last year and both players will be gunning for success.

McCallum, second last year, already wore the bridesmaid tag twice this season.

The Parkview golfer lost the SuperSport Ladies Challenge to Lejan Lewthwaite in a play-off and, this time partnering Lethwaite, they were beaten by Garcia and Scottish golfer Gabrielle Macdonald in a four-hole play-off in the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge Pro-Am.

Although she was peppering the flags in the final round at Serengeti, McCallum’s putter wouldn’t cooperate. “I had two chances in the play-off to win it with birdies, and the putts died on me. I spent some quality time with the flat-stick on Monday and I’m ready to fire. I’m driving the ball really well, so I’m confident that I can keep it play. And the girls are raving about how the greens have matured, so hopefully it’s third time lucky for me.”

Hall returned from Spain in January with a brand-new Ladies European Tour card in her pocket.

She is still chasing a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour title and this week and the R600 000 Jabra Ladies Classic next week at her home course, possibly represents her best two chances. Third in last year’s event, the Glendower pro is keen to rekindle her love affair with Soweto Country Club.

“A lot of people didn’t like the course last year, but I loved it from the word go and it’s even better this year. I love the layout; it suits my game. The pressure will probably be a bit more this year with so many international players in the field, but competing on the Vodacom Origins series last year helped me settle into the pro environment. I survived the LET Q-School, so I’m ready to fight.”

If she can channel some positive energy, hit it straight and roll in some putts, Hall could very well be crowned the sixth Joburg Ladies Open champions on Friday.

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

| 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.