Bertine Strauss put up a supreme show of composure and mental fortitude to capture a wire-to-wire victory in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge, while Maria Beautell from Spain shattered local rookie Lejan Lewthwaite’s dreams to make the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final with a superb final round performance at Huddle Park Golf Course on Friday. Strauss carried a four stroke lead into the final round and produced a grandstand finish with a perfectly executed birdie at the par four final hole to send the crowd into raptures. She closed with a three under 69 to triumph with a winning aggregate of 14-under-par 202.
Just a week ago, a maiden breakthrough on home soil in the Sun International Ladies Challenge at Sun City sent the 24-year-old rookie soaring from 19th to 10th in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Points Standing. She vaulted to fifth courtesy of a five-shot triumph in the final counting tournament. Strauss was ecstatic to be heading to Millvale Private Retreat as one of the 10 leading professionals who will challenge for the R1-million Bonus Pool and the winner-takes-all R100 000 prize in the Sunshine Ladies Tour showpiece from 10-12 March.
The LPGA Tour novice says: ‘I was under the gun to get into the top 10 at Sun City and just put my head down to get the job done, but this week the pressure was off and I really enjoyed the tournament. I made a great start with the 64 in the first round and I knew I just had to limit my mistakes and make some birdies to get the win. It’s almost overwhelming to realise that I played my way into the final event with back-to-back victories, but I’m very happy and proud of the way that I handled the pressure to fight my way into the field.’ Strauss boxed a 25-footer at the third to get some momentum going and notched further gains at nine, 12 and 14 to negate a three-putt bogey at seven and another drop at 15. She says: ‘When I was walking to the 18th green, I knew I had won but I didn’t really think about it. I wanted to finish the hole and it was an amazing feeling to make that 12-footer for birdie with all the golfers and my management company around the green.’
Strauss moved to 972.50 points and still lags 627.50 points behind Lee-Anne Pace, who will be gunning for her third consecutive Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies title. Strauss says: ‘I haven’t really thought about winning the rankings, but it’s a possibility now, providing Lee-Anne doesn’t play immaculate golf. She has had an incredible season with three victories in three starts. It will be a huge task to beat her, but anything is possible. I love Millvale and it has been my home course for about 10 years, so I feel really confident going to the final.’ Meanwhile Beautell was seven shots off the pace at the start of the final round, but six birdies changed her plans for next week.
The 34-year-old from Tenerife fired a determined five under 67 to finish sole second. Beautell pocketed 250 valuable points that propelled her into the number 10 spot in the Points Rankings and guaranteed her start at Millvale at the expense of Lewthwaite, who slipped from ninth to 11 after a tie for 29th. Beautell, who started the event ranked 13th, says: ‘I really, really wanted to make the field for Millvale, so I gave it everything in the final round. I drove the ball really well and missed only one fairway and I hit my irons so beautifully. I missed a few chances, but I got enough birdies to make my goal. I have had a really great time here in South Africa and I love the Sunshine Ladies Tour. I’m really excited to play the final.’
202 – Bertine Strauss 64 69 69
207 – Maria Beautell ESP 71 69 67
208 – Ashleigh Simon 67 70 71
209 – Carrie Park KOR 68 71 70
211 – Melissa Eaton 69 70 72
Photo credit Sunshine Ladies Tour