Ashleigh Simon, the 17-year old South Africa golf phenomena will be defending both her Stroke Play and Match Play trophies at the Sanlam Amateur Golf Championship, to be played at George Golf Club from Sunday.
Simon achieved this feat for a second time in the 2006 event, following the first when she was only 14-years old, making her the youngest winner of both the Stroke Play and Match Play Championships.
Simon will go head to head with Kelli Shean, her team mate and friend who helped South Africa dramatically win the World Amateur Team Championship on home soil last year.
Simon was in the news again recently, after she made history on the Ladies African Tour, after winning the Acer SA Open at Durban Country Club for the second time, becoming the first amateur to ever achieve this, and the youngest at the age of 17.
Kelli Shean, who will be going to Arkansas College in the USA, has played bridesmaid to Ashleigh’s wins in the past few events, is chomping at the bit for the Stroke Play trophy which has eluded her in previous years.
Tiffany Avern-Taplin, KzN’s number one player will also have something to prove before shipping out to Ohio State University, as will Nicole Loesch, who has been accepted at Georgia State Athletics.
Third WATC team member Stacy Bregman turned professional, and whilst failing to claim her maiden professional victory, walked away with the Ladies African Tour Order of Merit title. The 20-year-old accumulated in excess of R80000, and has put herself in pole position for a place in the Women’s World Cup team.
Although some top amateurs have turned professional such as Lumien Lausberg, Betty Mokoena, Suzette Venter and Fabienne Haremze – 154 of the country’s leading amateur players have stepped up to the plate to participate in this prestigious event for the coveted trophies.
The Championship Division (handicaps 0-9) has 97 competitors including young 15-year old Bertine Strauss, an up coming North West player who is maturing into an excellent golfer and could soon take centre stage – perhaps threatening the throne at this year’s Amateur Championship.
Strauss leads the WGSA Junior Order of Merit, the Ernie Els Foundation Order of Merit, and is lying 3rd on the Seniors Order of Merit. She has already won the Gauteng North Junior Championship and North West Championship.
She has honed her skills on the professional tour in three events earlier this year and is ready to take on the big guns.
“Golf players are getting younger and younger,” said Vivian Horak, secretary of Women’s Golf South Africa. “Twenty-three competitors have entered the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship that are 16-under.
“They include 14-year old Larissa Ras (Gau) as well as some newcomers: 12 year old Rochelle Brookes (Mpu), Kim Daniels (EC), Kelly Erasmus (WP); 13-year old Lara Weinstein (Gau), and Izele Peters (Mpu); and 14 year olds Kayla Wilkins (Bol) and Charlotte Von Tiddens (KzN).”
Ashleigh has been instrumental in motivating young girls to take to the fairways, and there are a whole new crop of players coming through the ranks as young as eight, competing in Little Kids Golf tournaments for a chance to participate in the US Kids Golf Championship later this year.
This year’s Sanlam SA Amateur Championship is also an arena for WGSA selectors choosing the team to represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Tournament to be played in Gauteng in May this year.