Rookie Monja Richards and seasoned Ladies European Tour campaigner Stacy Bregman top the bill for the final round at Sun City after the pair tied for the lead on one-under-par 71 in the Sun International Ladies Challenge on Monday. Bregman left the Lost City Golf Course frustrated after failing to take advantage at two par fives. The reigning Zambia Ladies Open champion finished the 2014 season just outside the top 10 and narrowly missed qualification for the season-finale Investec Cup for Ladies.
She decided to skip the Australia / New Zealand leg of the Ladies European Tour in favour of the Sunshine Ladies Tour this year. Bregman said, “I want to compete in as many events possible in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies to qualify for the season-finale in March, especially now that we have a R600,000 bonus pool to compete for in addition to the prize money.”
However, it has been eight weeks since her last start, the 28-year-old is still feeling a little rusty. Bregman birdied the par-five fourth and short eighth to turn in two under, and was still in good shape after a three-putt bogey at the par-five 11th. She hit a pitching wedge to 15 feet at the par-three 13th and boxed the putt for birdie, but ran into trouble at the par-five 18th.
“I hit a good drive, but I pulled a four-iron a little left,” Bregman said. “I chipped to 25 foot, but I got a bit heavy with the putter and ran it past the hole and then I missed the return. “I haven’t competed since Dubai in December, so I’m not sharp enough yet. I need to get the rust off and get into competitive shape, but I am pleased that I’ve made a good start.”
Unheralded Richards, by contrast, was thoroughly pleased to break par at the testing Gary Player-designed championship layout. The Mpumalanga golfer joined the paid ranks after representing South Africa in the Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championship in Japan in September last year. She was quite nervous on the first tee, but got her pro debut underway with a par-eagle start.
“I am playing with a new set of Ping clubs and I wasn’t too sure what to expect, because my swing still felt very loose in the practice round,” said the 27-year-old from Nelspruit. “I hit a good drive down the second and a five-iron approach from 155 meters. We watched the ball pitch a foot from the hole and disappear down the hole. That made my day.” Richards erased a bogey at the sixth with a tap-in birdie at the eighth to turn two under, and offset some of the damage after back-to-back bogeys at the 15th and 16th with a birdie at the par-five 18th.
“I hit my tee shot too hard into the par-three and I got punished for a bad drive at the 16th. My goal was to break par, so I laid up with a seven-wood, hit sand-wedge to 18 feet and holed the putt for birdie. “It was a nice surprise to find out that I am tied for the lead, but I was just really pleased that I got it around under par.” The leading pair may need all their guile, though, to stay ahead of Melissa Eaton.
The recent Ladies European Tour graduate was based in the United States for the last couple of years and, other than the Cell C SA Women’s Open, has not competed much in South Africa. She relocated home last year and is based in Port Shepstone. The former Symetra Tour winner offset three bogeys with a pair of birdies for a 73 and will look to hunt down the pacesetters in the final round.
FIRST ROUND SCORES:
71 Monja Richards; Stacy Bregman
73 Melissa Eaton
74 Eva Steinberger AUT; Frankie Bosman (AMA)
75 Alana Van Greuning
76 Charlotte Ellis ENG; Nicole Garcia; Morgana Robbertze; Kim Williams; Rebecca Hudson ENG
Photo: 2014 Zambia Ladies Open champion Stacy Bregman
Photo credit: Justin Klusener