Nobuhle Dlamini carried a four stroke lead into the final round of the Sun International Ladies Challenge, but it was rookie Bertine Strauss struck the jackpot with a three stroke victory at the Gary Player Country Club on Friday. The delighted Strauss, who closed with a two-under 70 and edged out Dlamini with a winning aggregate of five-under par 211, says: ‘That’s what I call ‘Mission Almost Accomplished’. I was really under the gun coming into this week, because I had to take up my starts on the LPGA Tour in the Bahamas and Australia. After two events, I was down in 19th on the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies point standings and I left myself with a lot of work to do. But now I’ve got my maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour win and I’m 10th in the point standings. With only one tournament left to make the top 10 cut-off for the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies final in March, the pressure is off and I’ve put myself in a really good position.’
Strauss had planned to chase down Dlamini with an aggressive approach, but when the 36-hole leader bogeyed the first and signed for a hefty nine at the par five second, Strauss had to make some quick adjustments to capitalise on her good fortune. The 24-year-old Koster golfer says: ‘I went from four shots down to a one stroke lead in two holes. It was always going to be tough to chase Nobby at a course as tight as this, but when the lead swung my way, I knew I had to change to a conservative approach. The pressure was on Nobby and I didn’t need to get fancy. I just needed to hit fairways and greens and make sure of pars at every hole.’ Strauss swapped a birdie at the first for bogey at the second, and holed a six-footer for birdie at the par three seventh.
She collected another gain at the par five 10th, but three poor shots at 14 cost her another shot. She made up for the drop when she hit her second stiff at 15 and boxed the birdie putt. Strauss says: ‘I knew it would hard for Nobby to catch me over the last three holes, so I just aimed for the middle of the greens to make pars.’
Strauss allowed herself to smile for the first time all day after knocking in the par putt for victory at 18. She says: ‘It was pretty intense out there. Nobby played some great golf. She had a birdie at nine, a bogey at 10 and the rest were all pars. So many of her birdie putts shaved the edge. If any of those dropped, it would have been a lot closer. I am really relieved that I got the job done and hopefully I can have another great result at the SuperSport Ladies Challenge at Huddle Park next week. I’d like to get myself in a better position in the point standings before the final at Millvale.’ Dlamini was disappointed not to have claimed a maiden title herself, but was proud of her resilience.
Dlamini says: ‘I hit it out of bounds twice at the second hole and I paid a huge price, but the rest of my round was really solid and I’m really proud that I played the last 16 holes in par. Bertine was lethal off the tee with her three-wood and she didn’t make many mistakes. I had it in my hands, but she did really well to finish it off. This runner-up finish lifted me to seventh in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies and that’s a huge reward. I was on the cusp for weeks, but my game is so much better and who knows, it might just be my turn in the winner’s circle next week.’ Meanwhile Wingate Park amateur Crystal Cooper edged out last week’s winner Chiara Contomathios for the Leading Amateur honours. Cooper carded rounds of 79, 76 and 76 to tie for 24th on 15 over 231 with Swedish professional Elina Bergvall.
211 – Bertine Strauss 74 67 70
214 – Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ 68 69 77
215 – Monique Smit 72 72 71
216 – Agathe Sauzon FRA 77 70 69
217 – Nicole Garcia 73 73 71
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour