Nicole Garcia may have barely made the cut at the Mannings Heath Golf Club, but following the reprieve, the South African knuckled down to claim a top 25 finish in her English Womens Amateur Stroke Play debut in Sussex, England.
Disappointed after an opening 81, Garcia improved by six shots with a second round 75 to make the cut to 36 and ties on the number on 12-over-par 156.
A third round 76 still left her hovering around the lower echelons of the leaderboard, but the 22-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer put everything she learned into producing a final round 73 that lifted her to joint 21st on 17-over-par 305.
Garcia had entered two prestigious international amateur championships in August to gain much needed experience ahead of the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School later this year.
Before the English Womens Amateur Stroke Play, Garcia spent several days at St Andrews in Scotland to soak up as much experience as possible by watching the professionals navigate the famous Old Course. Although she learned a lot from watching the pros, Garcia said that but putting it into practice proved a challenge.
“I was pretty disappointed with my start, but very relieved when I survived the cut,” Garcia said. “There was a lot of things to adjust to, though, and not knowing the course, I wasted a lot of good tee shots with the wrong choices into the greens.
“If you hit it into the wrong side of the green at Mannings Heath, you are guaranteed at bogey.”
Although Garcia did have a double bogey at the par-three fifth and a bogey at the sixth, she managed to shave two shots off her deficit with birdies at the second and 17th. But she was most pleased with the fact that she played the rest of the course to par.
“I definitely learned a lot in the first couple of rounds, and I felt much more confident in the final round about my choices,” she said. “It definitely reflected in my final round score.”
With three victories in May and July, the country’s number six ranked amateur took a good run of form to the United Kingdom, but it was being knocked out in the semi-finals of the Sanlam SA Womens Amateur Match Play at Milnerton Golf Club in July that really inspired the trip.
“I had been playing really well up the semi-finals, but the moment the wind really started to blow, my game came apart,” she said. “I made a lot of wrong club choices and it the wrong sort of shots in the wind, and I realised that I needed more experience under those conditions if I wanted to have a chance at Qualifying School.
“I was able to come to the United Kingdom thanks to financial assistance from Womens Golf South Africa and I’ve learned so much already. I will be putting all that into practice at some more courses over the next two weeks to prepare for the Ladies British Open Amateur Stroke Play at Prestwick later this month.”