Carrie Park is intent on continuing her solid rookie run on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and hopes to go one better in her own back yard when she lines up in the Ladies Tshwane Open at Zwartkop Country Club from 2-4 February. The 19-year-old South Korean ranks second in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Order of Merit and rose to second in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Points Standings following a third place finish in the SA Women’s Open, 10th at the Ladies Joburg Open and fourth in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies event at Houghton Golf Club last week. The GFG Academy player says: ‘I was really pleased when I learned that the Ladies Tshwane Open would be staged at Zwartkop Country Club this year. I joined the Gauteng North Golf Union when I moved to South Africa in 2011 and I have played hundreds of rounds at Zwartkop since I was a junior. I know the course like the back of my hand. I hope I don’t sound arrogant, but if I stick to my game plan, I will have another solid finish.’
And Park’s confidence is definitely justified. Just a week before the country’s former number one ranked amateur lifted the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Championship title in July last year, Park celebrated a double podium finish in the Gauteng North Championship at Zwartkop Country Club. The GFG Academy player beat another up-and-coming rookie Lejan Lewthwaite and top ranked amateur Cara Gorlei by two strokes for the Stroke Play Championship title and defeated Lewthwaite at the 20th hole to win the Match Play Championship.
Park says: ‘The keys to both victories at Zwartkop was accurate driving, good wedge play and lots of patience and that’s exactly how I will approach the course this week. There are a lot of birdie holes, but the greens can be tricky. You can’t afford to get frustrated when your putts don’t drop. If you are driving the ball well, you can hit wedges into all the par fives and you can set up birdie chances, but you have to stay patient. The end game for me is to make the top 10 to qualify for the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies and the R1-million bonus pool at the end of the season, so I am not going to put myself under pressure to score my first win.’ Park believes her biggest title rivals this week are former Sunshine Ladies Tour champions Ashleigh Simon, Stacy Bregman, Monique Smit, Kim Williams, England’s Rebecca Hudson and Lewthwaite. She says: ‘Ashleigh, Stacy, Monique and Kim all played really well in the first two tournaments this year and I think it’s just a matter of time before one of them wins. Ashleigh and Kim were both in contention until the final hole at the SuperSport Ladies Challenge here at Zwartkop last year, so the course suits both of them. Although Rebecca didn’t play Zwartkop last year, she is coming off her breakthrough win in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton, so she will be feeling confident. Lejan was tough to beat here last year in the Gauteng North Championship and she is fourth in the Chase standings and will be gunning for points. Although she struggled a little at Houghton, playing Zwartkop will give her confidence, too and I expect her to play well. But the standard of golf on the Sunshine Ladies Tour is so high that anyone who hits a hot run of form this week can win the Ladies Tshwane Open. I do believe I can win, but I don’t want to set my expectations too high. I have 475 points after my three starts but Lee-Anne Pace has 720 points and I’m still well behind. I need points to close the gap on Lee-Anne and keep myself in the running for Millvale in March, so I’ve set myself a goal of a top five finish. Anything inside the top five would be a great result for me.’
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour.