South Africa’s Stacy-Lee Bregman held off Melissa Eaton and Monja Richards in a dramatic final round tussle to win the first Sunshine Ladies Tour title of 2015 when she claimed the Sun International Ladies Challenge at Lost City on Tuesday. Unlike her sublime march to a runaway victory in the Zambia Ladies Open in March last year, the seasoned professional was made to work hard in a thrilling skirmish from start to finish for a one stroke victory on one-over-par 145 at the sun-drenched Pilanesberg course. Bregman only took the outright lead at the 16th and had to regroup after a drop at the next hole, but a birdie finish for 74 guaranteed her first podium finish in this year’s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
Bregman opted out of the Ladies European Tour leg in Australasia to give herself the chance to make the season-finale Investec Cup for Ladies and was thrilled to get her campaign off a good start. “I’ve given myself a good start and that’s all I wanted. I short-sided myself last year when I played Australia. I didn’t play enough events and missed the top 10 that qualified by one agonising spot. This year we have more prize money, new events and the R600,000 bonus-pool for the Investec Cup, so I intend to make the grade,” said Bregman. While she was thrilled with the victory, Bregman admitted her game still needs some work. I worked on my long game during the break, but I need a can of Q-20 to really get the rust off. But this was as good a start as I could have hoped for.”she said.
Bregman and Richards shared the first round lead on 71, while former Symetra Tour winner Eaton lurked just two off the pace. Against all expectations, Richards led the field at the turn on even-par, while Bregman had to recoup after three bogeys and a clutch of missed opportunities. She was tied for second with Eaton on two over, but the Nelspruit rookie triple-bogeyed the par-four 12th and opened the door for Bregman, who drew on all her experience on the Ladies European Tour to claw her way to the front.
“I hit it stiff at the 10th for a tap-in birdie and chipped it close at the 11th for another birdie, but then I bogeyed the 12th and 13th. I knew I needed to find something to pull away from Melissa, but the putts wouldn’t drop. I lipped out for a birdie at the 14th and shaved the edge of the hole for another miss at 15, but at the 16th, I finally knocked in a six-footer for birdie to pull one shot clear,” said Bregman. She wasted the gain with a bad tee shot at the 17th, though, and with no option but to chip out from the fairway bunker, she flew a superb six-iron to eight feet. “I missed the putt for par and knew it was down to the 18th, but it was more than 40 degrees out there and I was not in the mood for a play-off. I hit it straight down the fairway and hit a hybrid just short of the green. The pin was tucked right at the back, but I got my chip to eight feet and boxed the putt. It feels really good to win and I can’t wait to get going in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower on Thursday,” she said.
One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow and in this case, it was Eaton who paid the price of trying to go for the green at the 18th. The Port Shepstone pro’s approach disappeared in the reeds protecting the right fairway and resulted in a penalty drop. She saved par, though, and signed for a 73 to finish one stroke ahead of Richards (76) and fellow Ladies European Tour graduate Nicole Garcia (71). The leading amateur was Shawnelle De Lange, the only South African amateur to make the cut in the Cell C SA Women’s Open at San Lameer in September last year.
The Fochville golfer opened with a disappointing 81, but turned a lesson on how to properly use a yardage book from two-time Sunshine Tour winner Monique Smit into a valuable 73 to finish 12th on 10-over-par 154.
145 – Stacy Bregman 71 74
146 – Melissa Eaton 73 73
147 – Nicole Garcia 76 71, Monja Richards 71 76
149 – Kim Williams 76 73, Charlotte Ellis ENG 76 73
150 – Monique Smit 79 71
Photo: Sun International Ladies Challenge champion, Stacy-Lee Bregman
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA