Chiara Noja’s German Precision Delivers Course-Record at SA Women’s Open

Germany's Chiara Noja soared to a course-record 10-under-par 62 to take a two-stroke lead in the first round of the Investec South African Women's Open Championship at Steenberg Golf Club. Photo: Triston Jones | Ladies European Tour

It was a display of precision golf from Germany’s Chiara Noja, as she soared to a course-record 10-under-par 62 to take a two-stroke lead in the first round of the Investec South African Women’s Open Championship at Steenberg Golf Club on Wednesday, 8 March 2023.

The lanky 16-year-old Noja, who finished 12th in a stellar field in the LPGA’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International just a few weeks back, hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation as she made an eagle, nine birdies and a bogey to relegate Ashleigh Buhai’s opening eight-under-par 68 to second place.

“It was just very consistent golf in general,” said Noja. “I didn’t feel like I was swinging it incredibly well, so I was just trying to put myself in good positions for birdies. My putting’s good, definitely. To hole some of those putts was really good. My wedges were on point, and that’s what I’ll be trying to do going into the next few days. Depending on the wind, we’re going to see exactly how much I need to go under.”

While her wedge play was outstanding, there was plenty more to catch the eye about her game.

Any good score depends on making putts, and she had 27 putts in her 18 holes, including just 12 on the front nine. But her driving also caught the eye, and on the par-five fifth, she boomed it out there to 292 yards.

It was those shots into the greens that were attention-grabbing, and that was no fluke.

“Over the last two years, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my wedges,” she said. “I used to really struggle with that. I didn’t really get to practice it much. Over the winter, I’ve done a lot of wedge work and a lot of the shots I have learnt to hit, I didn’t have in the bag at the start of the season. There’s been growth in that sense, and also trusting myself a little better. I’m just trying to commit to everything.”

After Buhai’s morning heroics, Noja’s score was the only significant shake-up on the leaderboard from the afternoon field in the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Lades Tour and the Ladies European Tour.

On six-under, and in a share of third, were Johanna Gustavsson of Sweden, France’s Nastasia Nadaud and Romy Meekers of the Netherlands.

Joburg Ladies Open winner and reigning Investec Order of Merit leader Lily May Humphreys from England was back in the mix with a flawless five-under-par 67 to sit in sixth, and six players were in a share of seventh on four-under, including the next-best South African after Buhai, Nadia van der Westhuizen.

Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace opened with a two-under-par 70.

The story of the day, however, was Noja’s. “Obviously, I’ve had school, so I’ve not been running around crazy, but the work I have done in between lots of studying has mainly about trying to be healthy and try to make things repeatable,” she said. “I’ve also been working on getting shots into my bag for those in between distances that I didn’t have last year, and that’s really helped me for the last three months.”

With uncertainty in the air about the weather over the next few days, Noja was reluctant to say how she might approach the rest of the tournament. “I’m going to show up, make the best of everything, of every shot, and whatever comes out comes out,” she said.

FIRST ROUND SCORES

62 – Chiara Noja (GER)

64 – Ashleigh Buhai

66 – Johanna Gustavsson (SWE), Nastasia Nadaud (FRA), Romy Meekers (NED)

67 – Lily May Humphreys (ENG)

68 – Kylie Henry (SCO), Nadia van der Westhuizen, Luna Sobron Galmes (ESP), Smilla Tarning Soenderby (DEN), Agathe Sauzon (FRA), Patricia Isabel Schmidt (GER)

69 – Eleanor Givens (ENG), Ana Pelaez Trivino (ESP), Nicole Broch Estrup (DEN), Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ), Gabriella Cowley (ENG), Julie Boysen Hillestad (NOR), Magdalena Simmermacher (ARG), Kaleigh Telfer, Marta Sanz Barrio (ESP), Jane Turner (SCO)

70 – Sara Kouskova (CZE), Casandra Alexander, Lee-Anne Pace, Marianne Skarpnord (NOR), Linnea Johansson (SWE), Emie Peronnin (FRA), Chloe Williams (WAL), Elena Hualde (ESP), Nicole Garcia, Thalia Martin (ENG), Laura Beveridge (SCO), Hayley Davis (ENG), Sophie Witt (GER), Sarah Schober (AUT), Alessandra Fanali (ITA), Sanna Nuutinen (FIN), Pranavi Urs (IND)

71 – Lora Assad, Becky Brewerton (WAL), Liz Young (ENG), Jana Melichova (CZE), Amalie Leth-Nissen (DEN), Ridhima Dilawari (IND), Anais Meyssonnier (FRA), Nikki Hofstede (NED), Madelene Stavnar (NOR), Laura Fuenfstueck (GER), Lauren Holmey (NED), Laura Gomez Ruiz (ESP), Trichat Cheenglab (THA), Katja Pogacar (SVN)

72 – Tandi McCallum, Emma Spitz (AUT), Emma Nilsson (SWE), Klara Davidson Spilkova (CZE), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Cara Gorlei, Noora Komulainen (FIN), Christine Wolf (AUT), Lisa Pettersson (SWE), Nuria Iturrioz (ESP), Hannah Burke (ENG), Michele Thomson (SCO), Anna Magnusson (SWE), Amandeep Drall (IND), Vani Kapoor (IND), Ivanna Samu, Alice Hewson (ENG), Momoka Kobori (NZL), Stacy Bregman, Emma Grechi (FRA), Alexandra Swayne (ISV), Rosie Davies (ENG), Cara Gainer (ENG), Alexandra Forsterling (GER), Vanessa Knecht (SUI), Lejan Lewthwaite

73 – Leonie Harm (GER), Tiia Koivisto (FIN), Jenny Haglund (SWE), Maiken Bing Paulsen (NOR), Felicity Johnson (ENG), Kim Metraux (SUI), Mireia Prat (ESP), Helen Kreuzer (GER), Carmen Alonso (ESP), Paz Marfa Sans (ESP), Olivia Cowan (GER), Sofie Bringner (SWE), Anne-Charlotte Mora (FRA), Elin Arvidsson (SWE), Ana Dawson (IMN), Lindi Coetzee, Lea Anne Bramwell (WAL)

74 – Maria Hernandez (ESP), Carolin Kauffmann (GER), Kyra van Kan (a), Louise Duncan (SCO), Linnea Strom (SWE), Michelle Forsland (NOR), Bonita Bredenhann (NAM), Verena Gimmy (GER), Linette Holmslykke (DEN), Tiffany Arafi (SUI), Amy Taylor (ENG), Wenyung Keh (NZL)

75 – Camille Chevalier (FRA), Gabrielle Venter, Moa Folke (SWE), Lauren Taylor (ENG), Diksha Dagar (IND), Tereza Melecka (CZE), Samantha Whateley (a)

76 – Cloe Frankish (ENG), Sara Kjellker (SWE)

77 – Larissa Du Preez, Benyapa Niphatsophon (THA), Dorthea Forbrigd (NOR), Zethu Myeki, Kiera Floyd, Kelsey Nicholas, Georgia Iziemgbe Oboh (NGA)

78 – Ursula Wikstrom (FIN), Kirsten Rudgeley (AUS), Linda Wessberg (SWE)

79 – Genevieve Ling (MAS), Olivia Mehaffey (NIR)

80 – Lydia Hall (WAL), Meghan MacLaren (ENG)

81 – Isabella van Rooyen

Photo 1 Caption: Germany’s Chiara Noja soared to a course-record 10-under-par 62 to take a two-stroke lead in the first round of the Investec South African Women’s Open Championship at Steenberg Golf Club. Photo: Triston Jones | Ladies European Tour

With editing by gsport

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