Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Carrie Park was in a cheerful mood ahead of the final round of the Irene Championship after a four under 68 on Tuesday earned her a share of seventh in the 72-hole IGT Tour event. Park finished just five shots off the pace from joint leaders Russel Franz and CJ du Plessis, who share pole position at 12 under 132 at Irene Country Club. The 19-year-old Park returned to the country’s premier development Tour just two days after she wrapped up her rookie season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Park finished eighth in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final at Millvale Private Retreat and closed out the season ranked seventh overall in the Points Rankings after nine events. The South Korean golfer says: ‘It has been an incredible summer and the highlight was playing with Bertine Strauss in the first two rounds at Millvale. Bertine was the first player I ever went up against when I started playing on the South African amateur circuit and she was my idol growing up. I am so inspired by her achievements since she turned pro and I learned so much from playing with her. As soon as the Chase finished, I was wishing we could start another one right away.’ Park relocated to South Africa as a 14-year-old and played all her amateur golf on the Womens Golf South Africa circuit.
She started competing full-time on the IGT Tour in July last year just after she added the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Championship title to an impressive winning tally. The former number one ranked player says: ‘After I won SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship in 2014, my biggest goal was to get the ‘double’ and once I achieved it, I turned all my energy to my pro debut on the Sunshine Ladies Tour. I knew from playing the previous two seasons how tough the pro circuit would be and competing on the IGT Tour gave me great confidence to face the experienced players at the SA Women’s Open. I was really proud of my third place finish at San Lameer and it set me up for the season. Now it’s great that I can come back to the IGT Tour and to keep my form going.’ Park opened with a bogey-free 69 in round one and was flawless again in round two. She leads Nobuhle Dlamini by 10 shots and finished 13 strokes ahead of fellow rookie Lejan Lewthwaite.
Swaziland’s Dlamini, who finished seventh at Millvale, carded rounds of 71 and 76 and Lewthwaite posted 71 and 79. Michelle Leigh’s 75 and 76 saw her finish at 152, while Francesca Cuturi ended on the positive side of the cut with rounds of 75 and 77.
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour.