22 May 2014
Ladies European Tour rookie Nicole Garcia will line up alongside South Africa’s number one, Lee-Anne Pace, in the 2014 US Women’s Open Championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina next month.
The young South African was among the eight players who successfully negotiated the Sectional Qualifier Europe on Monday to earn their spots in the 2014 season’s second major championship at Pinehurst Number Two from 19 to 22 June.
The 69th edition of the US Women’s Open drew a record number of 1 702 entries worldwide, but with only 80 entrants exempt for the major, the United States Golf Association added four international sectional qualifiers in Asia and England, offering 17 spots into the championship.
Vying for one of eight places
Garcia was one of 73 hopefuls at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club just outside London on Monday that vied for eight spots on offer.
The 23-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer offset two bogeys with three birdies for an opening round of one-under-par 71 and erased three bogeys with three birdies for a second round of 72 to tie for second with Kelsey MacDonald from Scotland on one-under-par 143.
The pair finished a stroke off the pace set by Amy Boulden of Wales, who carded two 71s.
The other qualifiers included Australians Nikki Campbell and Stephanie Na, and English golfers Lucy Williams and Holly Clyburn.
Garcia declared herself thrilled at the prospect of her first trip to the US Open. “This is my first year on Tour, so truthfully, I didn’t expect to make it,” the 23-year-old golfer from the Ebotse Golf Estate said in a statement.
“I was fine through the first 18 holes, but I was incredibly nervous teeing it up in the second round. I somehow managed to hold it together and I played the last couple of holes really well to tie for second.
“It’s quite exciting, but I don’t think it has completely sunk in yet. I’ve been so nervous every time I tee it up in the Ladies European Tour events, so I expect to be very nervous when I go the USA.
“I’m going with no expectations and hopefully that works for me and I play well enough to make it to the weekend.”
Garcia rose to third in the South African amateur rankings last year before she turned pro at the Ladies European Tour’s (LET) Qualifying School, where she just missed her card by two shots.
She did, however, earn a provisional card that allows her a number of starts on the LET this season and a chance to gain her full card.
Garcia performed exceptionally well in her rookie season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, recording five top five finishes, including a runner-up spot in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Houghton to finish the season ranked fifth on the final Order of Merit.
The 69th U.S. Women’s Open is historic in that it will be contested in the week following the U.S. Open at Course Number two at the Pinehurst Resort and Country, marking the first time the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will be played on the same course in consecutive weeks.