Defending champion Bertine Strauss and three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Monique Smit provided the early fireworks in the opening round of the R200,000 SuperSport Ladies Challenge on Wednesday.
Gunning for a fourth successive title on the local circuit, Strauss looked fit to establish a commanding lead, but the Koster golfer ultimately had to settle for a share of top spot at three under with Smit, the champion of this event in 2014.
The pair both signed for rounds of 69 at Huddle Park Golf Club, although it could have been much better for Strauss.
She needed to produce a run of birdies on the back nine to secure a share of the lead, but Strauss was well pleased with a fine opening round.
“I haven’t touched a club for four weeks, which is probably the longest lay-off I’ve had in years,” Strauss said. “It was difficult to gauge how I’d play, but although there was a little bit of rust in the system, I was pretty pleased with how I did overall.
“I came through the front nine with eight pars and a birdie at the ninth and I thought this is going well, but I gave a couple of shots back on the homeward loop. That’s golf for you, though; it gives and it takes away.”
Strauss bogeyed 10 and 12, but guaranteed her share of the top spot with a birdie at 12 and four straight birdies from the 14th before she signed off with a bogey at 18.
“I played steady and started to get the pace of the greens on the back nine,” said the 24-year-old Investec-backed pro.
“Once a few putts started to drop, the confidence and belief flooded back. If you’d offered me three under at the start of the day, I definitely would’ve taken it. I’ve put myself in a great position and it’s something to build on.”
Smit was also delighted to find some good form with the prestigious SA Women’s Masters in the City of Cape Town just a fortnight away.
The Fancourt golfer offset a double bogey at the second with an eagle at 14 and picked up gains at 12, 16 and 17 while keeping the bogeys off her card until the final hole.
“I had no idea how it would go today, because I haven’t played competitive golf since I started my PGA apprenticeship at the end of last season,” Smit said. “I was just hopeful that I’d play well, and so it proved.
“Confidence is a funny thing. Once you get a few good things going, you get that confidence where you feel like you’re going to shoot a good number. I found a way to put myself into contention and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Chase to the Investec Cup winners Kim Williams and Nicole Garcia share third on two under 70, with Swaziland’s Nobuhle Dlamini, Bonita Bredenhann from Namibia and Lejan Lewthwaite from Benoni a further stroke adrift.
First Round Scores of the R200,000 SuperSport Ladies Challenge (All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated):
69 – Bertine Strauss, Monique Smit
70 – Nicole Garcia, Kim Williams
71 – Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ, Bonita Bredenhann NAM, Lejan Lewthwaite
72 – Ivanna Samu, Laila Hrindova SR, Morgana Robbertze
73 – Lynette Fourie (AMA), Lindi Coetzee (AMA), Alexandra Lennartsson SWE, Carrie Park S-KOR, Michaela Fletcher (AMA), Tijana Kraljevic, Melissa Eaton, Catherine Lau (AMA)
74 – Eleonora Galletti (AMA), Crizelda van Niekerk, Mae Cornforth, Kiran Matharu ENG, Lara Weinstein (AMA)
75 – Hanna Roos SWE, Flavia Namakula UGA, Francesca Cuturi
76 – Lora Assad (AMA), Mandy Adamson
77 – Caitlyn Macnab, (AMA) Siviwe Duma (AMA), Monja Richards, Tandi von Ruben, Alana van Greuning
78 – Casandra Hall (AMA), Natasha Carlsson (AMA)
79 – Yolanda Duma (AMA), Nicole Becker, Maria Roos SWE
80 – Wilna Bredenhann (AMA) NAM
81 – Michelle de Vries
84 – Sarah Bouch (AMA), Shawnelle de Lange (AMA), Nina Grey
86 – Leslie Grandet, Kim de Klerk
87 – Michelle Leigh
89 – Noluthando Mdanda (AMA)
Photo 1 caption: Bertine Strauss was delighted to top the R200,000 SuperSport Ladies Challenge Day 1 leaderboard with Monique Smit. “I haven’t touched a club for four weeks,” Strauss said. “It was difficult to gauge how I’d play.” Photo: Sunshine Ladies Tour
Photo 2 caption: “Confidence is a funny thing,” said Monique Smit, who shared the Day 1 leaderboard advantage with Strauss. “I found a way to put myself into contention and hopefully I can keep it going.” Photo: Sunshine Ladies Tour
With editing by gsport