Ashleigh Simon lit up the front nine of the East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club and produced a grandstand finish to seal a sensational six-stroke victory in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Open on Tuesday. The 25-year-old Glendower professional fired a seven-under-par 65 to celebrate a superb return to form on a winning total of eight-under 136. A three-time winner last season, Simon’s unprecedented fourth victory on the Sunshine Ladies Tour re-affirms her position among the prime golfers in the country.
Simon said: ‘I’m leaving for the United States next Wednesday and this win gives me a lot of confidence ahead of the JTBC Founders Cup. I finished my first round with three birdies in a row for a 71 and I got really excited when I realised I was only one off the pace. I did a lot of work on the mental game in the last couple of weeks and I played well in the first round of the Cape Town Ladies Open.’ Simon’s challenge ignited at the fourth hole when she hit it close at the par-three and made the birdie putt. She missed chances at the fifth and sixth holes, but bombed home a 30-footer for birdie at the par-four seventh to keep the momentum going.
She hit a three-wood to eight feet at the eighth and boxed the putt for an eagle three. Simon pulled five strokes clear of the chasing pack after holing a two-footer for birdie at the 10th, but that cushion was reduced to four after a bogey at the 11th. Simon, who rallied with two more birdies at the 16th and 18th in style said: ‘I hit it in the bunker and hit a good trap shot, but I didn’t back up the putt. It’s been a while, but when the putts started dropping half of it was relief and half of it was satisfaction. I wanted a grandstand finish and I got one.’
Simon will miss the season-finale Investec Cup for Ladies, but feels that she validated her decision to interrupt her schedule to come back and support the Sunshine Ladies Tour. Simon said: ‘I was determined to win at least one event before I go back to the LPGA Tour and it feels incredibly good right now. The sponsors have raised the stakes this year and the standard is even higher this season. It’s great to be able to compete at home and I am really happy to do my bit to help raise the profile of the Sunshine Ladies Tour.’ Simon will go head-to-head with Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader Stacy Bregman and reigning Cell C SA Women’s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge at Zwartkop next week from 10-11 March.
136 – Ashleigh Simon (RSA) 71 65
142 – Monique Smit (RSA) 73 69
143 – Woo-Ju Son AMA (RSA) 71 72, Bianca Theron AMA (RSA) 70 73
145 – Ivanna Samu AMA (RSA) 75 70, Melissa Eaton (RSA) 73 72, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 70 75
147 – Michelle Leigh (RSA) 74 73, Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 72 75, Charlotte Ellis (ENG) 70 77
Photo: Sunshine Ladies Tour Open champion Ashleigh Simon
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA