Kajal Mistry hopes to check off a big ambition before departing local shores as she lines up the SA Women’s Amateur Championships starting at the Woodhill Golf Estate Sunday on Sunday.
The talented youngster is heading to the United States in August, but before she takes up a golf scholarship at the University of Arkansas in August, the GolfRSA Elite Squad member has one more box to tick.
Eighteen-year-old Mistry claimed the biggest title of her amateur career when she lifted the SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship trophy at the Wanderers Golf Club in 2017, but winning the coveted double has proven elusive in the last two years.
Big Double in the Offering
“I would love to leave South Africa on a high note, but if the last two years have shown me anything, I’ll really have to work for it,” said the Randpark golfer.
In 2017, Mistry lost to Jordan Rothman from Western Province in the second round. A year later, she reached the top 16 but lost at the 21st to former Stroke Play champion Kaleigh Telfer.
Telfer reached the final, but was denied the double by Rothman, who won the final at Umhlali Country Club 2-up to become the second youngest winner of the flagship event after Ashleigh Buhai.
Rothman is a firm favourite for the double, coming off a strong summer that included a victory in the highly acclaimed SA Junior International in March, but Mistry also made a strong case for success with a blistering run on the recent Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Mistry on a Magical Run of Form
In seven starts on the women’s professional circuit, the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member enjoyed two runner-up finishes and three top 10s and finished fourth overall on the final Investec Property Fund Order of Merit at the end of the season.
“The experience of competing against the pros will definitely help my course management and mental game at Woodhill,” said Mistry.
“That will be important, because the stroke play results will determine the seeding for the Match Play Championship. After that, anything can happen. Traditionally the top ranked players dominate the stroke play stage, but the match play stage is wide open. And it’s going to be a really long week.”
The two flagship events of South African women’s amateur golf will be played back-to-back from 28 April to 3 May for the first time since 2012.
“The upside is that you can play yourself into really good form over the week,” Mistry on major back-to-back commitments on the course.
“The downside is that Woodhill is up-and-down with a lot of hills and valleys and it will really test your resolve. Stamina, especially over the 36 holes during the first two days of the match play stage, will be a key factor.”
Having only played the course once a few years ago, Mistry followed the country’s leading juniors during the Nomads SA Boys Under-19 Championship in February. “I watched the guys to see how they managed the course and I also caddied for my former Gauteng team-mate Symone Henriques during the Gauteng North Girls Junior Championship earlier this year, so I had a good sense of the challenges,” Mistry said.
“I played the course for the first time last week and I like the layout. It’s tree-lined, but not nearly as penal as say Westlake or Royal Cape. The fairways are reasonably generous and the course is in great condition. It’s not playing that long, but position off the tees will be key to going low.
“I’m really happy that Reece Hackney will be caddying for me over the first two days. He was on my bag when I won at Wanderers, too. He’ll make sure that I’m having fun, and don’t get too serious, too soon, especially over the first five holes, which are all uphill!
“I’ve been working really hard with my coach Darren Witter on fine-tuning my game. To have your name on both trophies is the highest honour and achievement for any amateur and not too many have done it.
“Match play is such an unpredictable format. You can be playing your best golf and make a bunch of birdies and lose or you can win just on pars. Just last month I was beaten by Annelie Swanepoel in the Western Province Women’s Amateur Match Play final. She’s 10th on the Junior Rankings, so it just goes to show that in match play, you can never be certain.
“I would really love to own the double, but I’ll park my expectations once the stroke play stage gets underway, and take it hole by hole, shot for shot. I am striking the ball well and my short game is very good. If the putts start dropping, I’m in with a chance.”
Photo caption: Former SA Women’s Stroke Play champion Kajal Mistry from Randpark Golf Club is targeting the double in the SA Women’s Amateur Championship, at Woodhill Golf Estate from 28 April to 3 May 2019. Photo: Sunshine Ladies Tour.
With editing by gsport