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2nd February 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Double delight for brilliant Buhai

Ashleigh Buhai completed a commanding wire-to-wire victory and collected her eighth Sunshine Ladies Tour trophy with a five-shot winning margin in the Joburg Ladies Open at Modderfontein Golf Club on Friday.

Buhai banked the the lion’s share of the R500 000 prize pot and a total of eight-under 208 earned her 650 points, which boosted her to the top spot of the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit.

“It’s great to leave South Africa with a double whammy, because I set myself some pretty steep goals this week,” said the smiling Buhai.

“I’m really pleased with this win. I had chances the first two years at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, but I never made the most of my home course. It feels really good to add my name to the trophy; after all I’m a Joburg girl, so it’s fitting that I should win this one at least once.”

Stacy Bregman, who won the season-opening Canon Ladies Tshwane Open last week, and 19-year-old Ivanna Samu both launched a spirited final round attack, but it was too little, too late. Bregman fired a 67 and Samu 68 to tie for second 213.

Buhai maintained the good form that earned her a runner-up finish in Tshwane last week. She made make a flying start with an opening four-under-par 68 in City of Joburg showpiece and followed with successive rounds of 70.

“I made back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 to go 10-under, and I had an eight shot lead with six holes to play,” said Buhai. “I guarded against not getting complacent, but the wind got a bit tricky down the last couple of holes and I did let my concentration slip just a touch.

“I overshot 16 and 18, because I couldn’t risk a shorter club with water in front of both greens, but at least the cushion was big enough to cover the bogeys.”

Buhai will miss the next three weeks to compete on the LPGA Tour in Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

“I really wanted to perform well to put myself in a good position this week and it feels incredibly good to achieve what I set out to do,” she said. “This gives me a big boost of confidence.

“I felt a bit rusty at Pretoria Country Club last week, but I improved round for round. My coach and I (Doug Wood) put in some work over the weekend and I struck the ball really well this week. I also started seeing my lines clearly, although I feel I need to work the putter some more, but I’m really looking forward to taking this game on tour.”

After dropping a shot at the fourth, Bregman put her foot on the gas pedal and reeled in four birdies on the trot. She picked up another pair of birdies at 12 and 14 for her 67. Samu also overshot the final green and her chip shot ran 12 feet past the hole, but she holed a clutch putt for 68.

Swiss golfer Azelia Meichtry shot a final round 73 to join Nobuhle Dlamini in a tie for third. Her 217 total earned Meichtry the Leading Amateur honour, as well. The country’s top ranked junior, Woo-Ju Son, took second on 224.

1st February 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Buhai builds two shot barrier

Ashleigh Buhai remains on course for a wire-to-wire victory in the Joburg Ladies Open after a two-under-par 70 moved her within touching distance of an eighth Sunshine Ladies Tour title at Modderfontein Golf Club on Thursday.

“Obviously I’m happy with the position I’m in; anytime you go into a final round leading it’s a good place to be;” said Buhai, who leads by two on six under 138 from Lauren Taylor and is six strokes clear from a four-way tie for third.

“I didn’t hit it as close as I did in the first round, but at the same time, the conditions were a little trickier. We had a two-hour delayed start and the course was quite wet and then the wind came up on the back nine and was really swirling.”

Taylor from England – a joint runner-up in 2017 – returned a 70, while Nobuhle Dlamini fired five straight birdies from the 10th to record the low round of the day.

A sublime five-under 67 moved the big-hitting Swazi golfer to level par alongside Carrie Park from South Korea, Swiss amateur Azelia Meichtry and another English talent, Hayley Davis.

Buhai began the second round with a one shot lead and kept the advantage as both players birdied the opening par five.

The 28-year-old Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer countered soft drops at three and six with birdies at four and eight as Taylor picked up another gain at six and Buhai led by two at the turn. The English golfer birdied 10 but gave the shot back with a bogey at 18 and Buhai birdied 17 to edge two shots clear.

“Almost every hole down the back nine was into the wind and it was tricky, but overall I played steady and stayed patient,” said Buhai. “I made eight pars down the back nine and sometimes those are bigger than birdie putts, especially in conditions like these.”

In 2017, Buhai racked up a hat-trick of victories in 2017 and walked away with the lion’s share of the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies that launched a career-best season on the LPGA Tour.

Victory after a runner-up finish in last week’s Canon Ladies Tshwane Open could leave her in a strong position on the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit to challenge for the R100 000 bonus at the end of the season.

“If I go with the same game plan and I trust my swing, I’m in a good position to win,” said Buhai. “I’m feeling my lines pretty good and I’ve felt this week that the game is starting to feel like it did at the end of last season. I just need to get my confidence up and it would be nice a few more birdie putts dropped in the final round.

“I’m leaving next week to play the LPGA Tour in Australia, Thailand and Singapore, so I’ll be missing three events at home. A win tomorrow would be great. It would be nice to get the maximum points on offer and still be in a strong position when I come back to play the Investec South African Open.”

31st January 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Buhai hits a high note at Joburg Ladies Open

Ashleigh Buhai made a strong case for an eighth Sunshine Ladies Tour title with a sparkling four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the Joburg Ladies Open on Wednesday.

Maintaining the good form that earned her second in the season-opening Canon Ladies Tshwane Open last week, South Africa’s leading international golfer made a flying start at Modderfontein Golf Club.

Buhai racked up four birdies in her outward loop and moved to six-under with another pair of gains at the first and second holes. But her three shot lead dwindled to one with bogeys at seven and nine.

“My mind drifted a little and I three-putted from a short distance at seven, so I was a little annoyed about the bogey, but it’s golf; you just have to take it on the chin and move on,” said last year’s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion.

“I put myself in an impossible position off the tee. I caught the face of the greenside bunker and had a very awkward stance, so I wasn’t disappointed with the bogey finish.”
Buhai attributed her first round performance to accurate tee shots and a short-game.

“I drove the ball really well and I hit a lot of great wedge-shots really close,” said the 28-year-old Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer. “I gave myself a lot of chances. The greens are immaculate and running so true. The birdies are out there if you put yourself in the right spots on the greens.”

The two-time Ladies European Tour champion is heading for Australia next week and admits that she would love to leave with the title and a leg-up on the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit.

“I would really love to win the Joburg Ladies Open,” said Buhai. “I didn’t manage it when we played it at my home course, so maybe this is my week. Winning would also leave me in a good position until I return to South Africa in March to play the Investec South African Women’s Open.”

To lift the trophy, Buhai will have to stave off a chasing pack that includes fellow Ladies European Tour player Lauren Taylor from England.

Looking to improve on a joint runner-up finish last year, Taylor finished at two-under, one shot back from Sunshine Ladies Tour regular Hanna Roos from Sweden. She shares third with French newcomer Emie Peronnin and second-season South African professional Ivanna Samu.

Carrie Park, who is back from her native South Korea where she earned a card for the Korean LPGA Tour, will be defending her SA Women’s Masters title at San Lameer next month.

Park made 16 pars, a bogey at 16 and a birdie at seven to grab a share of sixth with former Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Kiran Matharu from England, Mariell Bruun from Norway and last week’s Canon Ladies Tshwane Open champion Stacy Bregman.

Lee-Anne Pace, who won the inaugural event in 2016, was forced to retire after five holes.

“I picked up a bug and already felt weak during Tuesday’s Pro-Am, but I was determined to start,” said Pace. “The course is in such great condition and the greens are fast, just as I like them to be, so it was gut-wrenching to have to pull out. I wish everyone a great tournament.”

A trio of amateurs – Azelia Meichtry from Switzerland, reigning Nomads SA Girls Rosebowl champion Kaiyuree Moodley and 13-year-old Kiera Floyd – close out the top 10 at one-over-par 73 alongside England’s Hayley Davis and Alexandra Lennartsson from Sweden.

30th January 2018 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Samu targets ‘home’ victory in Joburg Ladies Open

South Africa’s Ivanna Samu hopes to use her extensive knowledge of Modderfontein Golf Club as a springboard for success when the Joburg Ladies Open gets underway on Wednesday.

A top five finish in last week’s Canon Ladies Tshwane Open after a month-long injury lay-off was just the shot in the arm the second-season professional needed as she targets a Sunshine Ladies Tour breakthrough in the R500 000 City of Joburg showpiece.

“I aggravated an old wrist injury in early December and I only started practicing after the BMW SA Open,” said the statuesque 19-year-old Ruimsig Country Club golfer.

“I was really anxious and had shocking back nines in the first and second rounds for 76 and 74, but I took control in the final round. Shooting three-under in the last round brought all the confidence back.”

She had a proper spring in her step when she arrived at Modderfontein for Tuesday’s Pro-Am.

“The moment I saw that the Joburg Ladies Open was coming to Modderfontein this year, I was raring to go,” said Samu. “I know this course like the back of my hand, and it’s great to be back.

“I played nearly all my junior golf here; in fact, ask any kid who came through the junior ranks at Gauteng and they will tell you that this is their other ‘home course’. The memories came flooding back when I walked into the clubhouse and I am flush with positive vibes.”

Samu held the number one ranking as an amateur for almost two years and, predictably, was the leading amateur at the end of the 2016 Sunshine Ladies Tour season. She made her pro debut last year, but the reality of the paid ranks was a big wake-up call.

“The transition to the paid ranks was mentally really tough,” said Samu, who signed a deal with Callaway on Monday to become the first female pro to represent the brand in South Africa.

“When you dominate on the amateur circuit, you get comfortable. When I was preparing for my Sunshine Ladies Tour debut on the IGT Challenge Tour, I began to realise how big the gap really is. That first season was a huge eye-opener, from playing at home to going to the First Stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying School.”

Samu believes testing the water in the United States gave her the perspective to succeed.

“When I played the Sunshine Ladies Tour as an amateur, I played with a lot of freedom and did really well,” she said. “In my first pro season, I should have played the courses; instead I played for my sponsors, my parents, family and friends. I wanted to run before I could walk.

“America taught me that I still have a long road ahead of me and that playing for money comes with a whole set of headaches. What I learned was that the journey to the LPGA Tour is a series of steps and only the exceptional few skip ahead.

“Ultimately I know where I want to end up. To get on the LPGA Tour, I have to earn my stripes. I got some stripes on the IGT Challenge Tour and the Pink Stig Series last year, and I’m earning more stripes on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this season. But just maybe, I can land a trophy along the way.”

A total of 81 players will start the 54-hole Joburg Ladies Open, including 29 local and 31 international professionals plus 21 amateurs, led by the country’s number one ranked junior Woo-Ju Son.