Starting today, among the world’s most gifted young women golfers will assemble at the feet of Africa’s elegant mountain peaks to contest a four-day championship that is as elevated in esteem as it is lowly in bankable proceeds, by common modern standards.
But it’ll be understood if none of the golfers deign to pay much attention to the world-famous Table Mountain, nestling in its splendour across the Cape Flats, or the short-term deficiency of a healthy winning kitty.
This is because the Women’s 22nd World Amateur Team Championships tees off on Wednesday 18 October, and the African summer will have to blaze away to match the expected quality of play.
This year 42 teams from across the globe enter battle in Stellenbosch at the De Zalze and Stellenbosch Golf Clubs, in attempts to keep the coveted Espirito Santo Trophy for the two years of winner’s delight.
South Africa’s amateur trio includes the illustrious Ashleigh Simon, Stacey Bregman and Kelli Shean, and on recent form, these three should ensure a respectable placing for South Africa, if not better.
Defending champions Sweden are represented by Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Westrup and Sofie Andersson this year, with Andersson the sole survivor from the team that took Sweden to victory in the 2004 Champs.
Karin Sjodin and Louise Stahle had posted a 2-under-par 70s in their final round to overcome a two-stroke deficit to Canada, going on to force a three strokes win, their 9-under-par 567 making their effort the second-lowest team score in the championship’s history.
Unlucky Canada had held the lead through the first three rounds, and was looking good to become the first start-to-finish winner since the USA in 1996.
The USA, having lost the inaugural Championship to hosts France in 1964, have never finished outside of the top-10 countries since then, and have won the event a dominating 13 times.
Only Spain and France, with two wins each, also have multiple winning teams.
Each team, the members of which must be amateur players and citizens of the countries they represent, will play 18 holes of stroke play for four days, two rounds each of 18 holes on the De Zalze and Stellenbosch Golf Courses.
In each round, the total of the two lowest scores from each team constitutes the team score for the round. The four-day (72-hole) total is the team’s score for the championship.
As for rich pickings: The winning women’s team receives custody of the Espirito Santo Trophy for the ensuing two years; members of the winning teams receive gold medals; members of the second-place teams receive silver medals; and members of the third-place teams receive bronze medals.
Ten teams making their World Amateur Team Championships debuts are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Honduras, and three African countries, Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, and Zambia.
Members of former winning teams include illustrious names, including the USA’s Juli Inkster, who was a member of consecutive winning 1980 and 1982 teams, Japan’s Hiromi Kobayashi (’82 and ’86), Swedish headliner Annika Sorenstam (’90 and ’92), Korea’s Se Ri Pak (’94) and Australian Karrie Webb (’94).
When the African sun sets on the 2006 World Amateur Team Championships, and the winner’s names are long since etched on the Espirito Santo Trophy, Federation countries will start looking forward to the next amateur spectacular to be hosted by Australia in Adelaide, Australia, care of the by the Australian Golf Union, but until then, very few minds will be thinking further than the next swing.