Coming off her second Sunshine Ladies Tour victory at the SuperSport Ladies Challenge last week, a confident Lee-Anne Pace will target back-to-back titles at the Ladies Tshwane Open from 16-17 March. But, while the world number 30 has the luxury to focus her energy on a third podium finish this season, the R100,000 event presents the final push for a handful of players competing at Pretoria Country Club this week. A strong performance in the penultimate event on the 2015 Sunshine Ladies Tour could mean a seat in the bus for the season-ending Investec Cup for Ladies.
Only the top 10 players in the Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies rankings following the Ladies Tshwane Open will qualify to challenge for the winner’s share of the R100,00 purse and R600,000 bonus pool at Millvale Private Retreat and the Lost City Golf Course from 20-22 March. Three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Stacy Bregman leads the standings, with Melissa Eaton, Nicole Garcia, Lee-Anne Pace, Kim Williams, Nobuhle Dlamini, Lucy Williams from England, Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann and Monique Smit occupying the next eight spots. Sonja Richards is currently ranked 10th and the next 36 holes present the most important two rounds of the rookie’s short career.
The Nelspruit player has 356 points in hand, but has Morgana Robbertze (294), Iliska Verwey (288) and Tandi Von Ruben (277) breathing down her neck. Richards said: ‘Everyone wants to play the Investec Cup for Ladies and I feel like I have a target on my back. Morgana, Iliska and Tandi are very experienced and I am the new kid on the block. Morgana and Tandi have both won numerous times and Iliska has shown some great form lately. Hermoine Fitzgerald from England has 220 points, but if she gets the putter going, she will also be a force to reckon with.’ Richards led the first round on debut in the Sun International Ladies Challenge, but she let it slip on the final day.
Although she missed out on the 250 points on offer to the winner, she tied for third and gave her campaign a further boost with a tie for 10th at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies and a top 20 finish in the Cape Town Ladies Open. Richards said: ‘This is all very new to me, but my first season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour has been a remarkable learning experience. I made good progress over the last six weeks. Hopefully all the experience will count for something over the next two days, because it would be incredible to cap my rookie season with a spot in the Investec Cup for Ladies.’ Bredenhann and Smit, ranked eighth and ninth respectively, is taking nothing for granted, either.
The big-hitting Namibian showed no effects of back surgery in January as she reeled in a tie for third in the Dimension Data Pro-Am and a fifth place finish in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge. Bredenhann said: ‘I’ve had a couple of good results, but I can’t afford to get complacent. One poor round can cost me my spot in the top 10, so I want to get off to a fast start and keep the mistakes to a minimum. After watching the Tshwane Open, I don’t think my distance will be an advantage at this course. It’s very tight and you have to be unbelievably accurate.’ Smit, a two-time champion in 2014, had a bumpy start to the season, but bounced back with a runner-up finish in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Open and a tie for seventh at Zwartkop Country Club last week.
The Southern Cape golfer said: ‘I felt very rusty at the start of the season, but I’m really glad I picked up some form just at the right time. I definitely want another shot at the Investec Cup for Ladies title, especially now that we have the bonus pool to play for, as well.’
Photo: Monja Richards
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA