Monique Smit will start the penultimate event of the 2016 Sunshine Ladies Tour season hell bent on earning the lion’s share of the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies ranking points on offer to dispose of current leader Lee-Anne Pace. The third edition of the SuperSport Ladies Challenge is a crucial one for every player in and around the top 10, particularly those still chasing a guaranteed berth in the season finale Investec Cup for Ladies final next week. Only the top 10 available professionals in the point rankings at the conclusion of this week’s tournament will qualify for the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s showpiece at Millvale Private Retreat.
Current number two ranked Smit is in the enviable position of having secured her place in the field after a remarkable season that has included a win, a runner-up finish and four top fives. But the former SuperSport Ladies Challenge champion lags 250 points behind Pace, who tops the rankings with 1 600 points after four victories in four starts this season. However, with the two-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies winner competing in the LPGA Tour’s HSBC Women’s Champions this week, Smit has made the journey from George to Huddle Park Golf Club with just one goal on her mind.
The determined 24-year-old says: ‘I just want to get that number one spot. Although I secured my spot in the field, I couldn’t just take the week off and leave ranking points out there for the other girls. There is a bonus pool of R1-million to play for next week. If I win, I earn 320 points. If I finish second, I gain 250 points. Either way I can get to number one and I’ll leave myself in a great position for the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies final. After I won the Ladies Tshwane Open, I felt it was a possibility, especially with Lee-Anne leaving to compete on the LPGA Tour. The runner-up finish in the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and the third place at Sun City last week strengthened my resolve. I want to get to number one; that’s my goal and I’m going for it.’ Third ranked Rebecca Hudson from England, who became the first foreigner to win an event on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, also has title aspirations. The four-time Ladies European Tour champion, who has 950 points in hand, says: ‘If I can win this one, I can close the gap significantly on Lee-Anne and Monique. Anything can happen at Millvale and I want to give myself the best chance possible.’
The remainder of the current top 10 – Ashleigh Simon, Stacy Bregman, Melissa Eaton, Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland and rookies Bertine Strauss, Lejan Lewthwaite and Carrie Park from South Korea – are also present at Huddle Park this week. Strauss shot from 19th to 10th in the rankings after a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour victory at Sun City last week, but she will need to produce another quality performance to cement her spot. The Koster golfer is bound to come under pressure from Kim Williams – just outside the top 10 bubble – and 12th ranked Maria Beautell from Spain, who finished third in the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and notched top 10 finishes in her three other starts.
And it is definitely last chance saloon for 2015 qualifiers Namibian Bonita Bredenhann and Tandi von Ruben – ranked 14th and 15th respectively – if they hope to make the field for the Grande Finale.
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour