KwaZulu-Natal’s Melissa Eaton heads to Millvale Private Retreat for this week’s Investec Cup for Ladies still contemplating what could’ve been, but confident of what is yet to come. The Port Shepstone golfer came close to a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour victory twice when she tied for the lead in the final round of the Sun International Ladies Challenge and led the first round in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am. Eaton caught up to Stacy Bregman in the final round at the Lost City Golf Course, but spoiled her chances of a breakthrough when she mailed her approach at the final hole into the reeds lining the right fairway.
She hit a superb approach on the second try, though, and walked away with a runner-up finish. The Symetra Tour winner was back to form in George and produced a magnificent two under 70 in sweeping rain and howling wind at Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa to take a two stroke lead into the final round. She let it slip with a 74 in the final round at the Outeniqua course at Fancourt, though, and had to settle for second again.
Falling just short to eventual champion Bregman twice was a blow, but Eaton is able to take enough positives out of the last seven weeks. After claiming her third runner-up finish in the Ladies Tshwane Open on Tuesday, Eaton said: ‘At the beginning of the Tour, if you gave me second places, I probably would have taken it. I hadn’t played in South Africa for years and I had no idea who I was going up against or what the standard of the Tour would be. I’m obviously a little disappointed that I couldn’t finish off at the Lost City or in George, at least, but that’s how the chips fell for me.’ In her other starts, Eaton tied for third in the Cape Town Ladies Open, shared fifth in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Open, placed seventh in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge and finished ninth in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower.
Over the last seven weeks, her consistency – and points – added up and she heads into the season-finale as the Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader, and a very different player to the one that started the Sunshine Ladies Tour two months ago. She said: ‘In every tournament, it has come down to one bad nine. One bad stretch has cost me every time. I’ve been very consistent throughout the Tour, and that carried me to the top of the standings and I take a lot of confidence out of that achievement.’ Eaton leads the rankings with 1021 points, but only 120 points separate the top three.
Bregman, a three-time winner this season, collected 988 points in six starts, while Ladies Investec Cup defending champion Lee-Anne Pace sits in third on 900 points from victories in the Cell C SA Women’s Open, the SuperSport Ladies Challenge and the Ladies Tshwane Open. With 1000 points on offer for a champion’s performance in the season-finale, Eaton’s consistency could see her claim women’s professional golf’s biggest prize in the Investec Cup for Ladies. The winner’s share of the R100,000 purse is R30,000, but the points leader will walk away with a cool R250,000.
Eaton will start her 2015 Ladies European Tour season in China in May and the added incentive has her fired up to finish the Ladies Sunshine Tour with a bang. Eaton said: ‘I am a little apprehensive about Millvale, as I haven’t played the course before, but I’ll get a practice round in on Thursday and see how it goes. I’m looking forward to the last two rounds at the Lost City, though. The course suits my eye and my game. It’s a tricky layout. It’s long and tight and course management is critical to scoring. But it was one of my goals to try and win one of the eight events, so maybe I had to wait until the last one to shake the bridesmaid tag.’ And the rest of Eaton’s competitors best prepare for double trouble as the KwaZulu-Natal golfer will have identical twin, Nicole, on the bag to magnify her chances.
Photo: Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader Melissa Eaton (right) and twin sister Nicole on the bag
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA.