Bertine Strauss is 18 holes away from a guaranteed spot in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies season finale next week after extending her lead in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge on Thursday. After blistering the Huddle Park golf course in 64 strokes in round one, Strauss notched only three gains on moving day, but another flawless display moved the 24-year-old Koster golfer to 11-under-par 133. Strauss leads by four from closest challenger Ashleigh Simon, whose expected charge derailed early on with bogeys at two and three.
The four-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion rallied with birdies at seven, nine, 10 and 11 for a 70, though, which was good enough to reclaim second on the 36-hole leaderboard. Melissa Eaton and fellow rookie Carrie Park lag six off the pace after respective rounds of 70 and 71. Stacy Bregman – another four-time winner on the local circuit – fired a four under 68 to post the low round of the day and rose six spots to eighth on 141.
Strauss birdied both par fives on the front nine and interrupted a run of straight pars on the back nine with a lone birdie at the par four 12th. Strauss, who is gunning for a second successive Sunshine Ladies Tour title after her Sun International Ladies Challenge victory last week, says: ‘I was pleased to finish in red numbers and I didn’t lose any ground. The difference was that I hit it a lot closer on day one and the putts dropped. I didn’t take advantage of all the par fives today and I left a few birdie chances short. A 69 was probably the worst I could have shot, I kept my lead and that’s really all that matters.’ Simon three-putted the second and left herself short of the green with her approach and couldn’t up-and-down to save par at the third, but she turned things around to stay in the mix.
She says: ‘I didn’t hit the ball well, but I got it around and I’m happy that I finished under par. I made some good birdies and a great par-save at 14 after hitting it in the water. Given how I was striking the ball, I’m really happy that I am still chasing Bertine.’ Meanwhile rookie Lejan Lewthwaite will be keeping a very close eye on the final round leaderboard. The number nine ranked player joined the bus at eight over with rounds of 79 and 73 and her top 10 ranking could come under serious threat from Kim Williams or Maria Beautell from Spain.
Williams is 11th in the current Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Points Standings, but at four over, she will have to shoot the lights to out gain enough ground to lift Lewthwaite. Beautell, however, is 13th with 561 points. Although she needs to finish third to gain the 200 points needed to beat Lewthwaite’s 713 points, the Access Tour winner will start the final round in joint fifth on 140. A recent third place finish in the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge showed that Beautell has the game to get the job done.
If Lewthwaite hopes to challenge for a share of the R1-million Bonus Pool at Millvale Private Retreat next week, the Benoni golfer will have minimise her mistakes and aim for a clean card, or her Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies bid could tank on Friday.
SECOND ROUND LEADERBOARD
133 – Bertine Strauss 64 69
137 – Ashleigh Simon 67 70
139 – Melissa Eaton 69 70, Carrie Park KOR 68 71
140 – Maria Beautell ESP 71 69, Cecilie Lundgreen NOR 70 70, Nicole Garcia 69 71
141 – Stacy Bregman 73 68
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour