17 March 2014
South African golfer Ashleigh Simon departed for the US on Sunday, ready to tackle the LPGA Tour, on the back of three successive victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, following a dominating win in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies on Friday.
“I’m excited to go [to the US] and that’s down to the fact that I have been competitive and my game is ready,” she said after claiming the title.
Competing on the Gary Player-designed Blue Valley Golf Estate course, near Kyalami, Simon cruised to an eight-shot victory after closing with a five-under-par 67, for a winning total of seven-under-par 137.
Cecilie Lundgreen of Norway and England’s Lauren Blease shared second on one- over-par 145 after both carded rounds of 73.
Simon started the final round tied for the lead with her former Women’s World Cup partner, Laurette Maritz, on two-under. She quickly put distance between herself and the chasing pack, however, with birdies at the second, third and fifth and, after voiding a three-putt bogey at seven with a birdie at the 13th, there was no chance of catching the four-time champion.
She drained a 35-meter curving, downhill putt for birdie at the 16th to increase her insurmountable lead and signed off with a tap-in birdie after a superb chip to the 18th green.
Maritz took fourth on three-over 147 with a closing 77, while Sun International Challenge winner Tandi von Ruben finished a further shot back with a final round 73.
Simon’s third win vaulted her to the top of the Order of Merit. Ironically, she won SA Women’s Open twice and claimed a number of victories in pro tournaments between 2004 and 2009, but all these triumphs came during her illustrious amateur career.
The 23-year-old Johannesburg pro was thrilled to finally add to her trophy case in South Africa and pocket the winner’s cheque. “It’s so great that I finally get to take home the cash,” she laughed after securing the title.
“I never won as a pro here in South Africa. Both my pro wins at the Catalonia Ladies Masters (2007) and the Portugal Masters (2011) came on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
“I am so pleased that we have a pro tour again. It was so great for all of us to play in front of our own people and for me, to win with my family and friends around.
“I made very few bogeys. I’ve scored consistently well and my game between tee and green has been very solid in the five events I played,” she added.
Investec Cup for Ladies
Simon’s premature departure has opened up a spot for England’s Blease in the field for the Investec Cup for Ladies, which is limited to the top 10 available players on the Order of Merit.
The LET Access Series campaigner was thrilled to learn that she will be teeing it up in the R300 000 event next week.
“I jumped to 11th in the rankings [with my runner-up finish here], but I had no idea Ashleigh was leaving,” Blease said.
“It was the best surprise ever. I came over here to play the Sunshine Ladies Tour to get my game sharp for the season. This is such a fantastic bonus.
“I’ve had the best time and it looks like I peaked at exactly the right moment.”
The Investec Cup for Ladies will be played at the Millvale Private Retreat and the Lost City Golf Course from 21 to 23 March, with the winner set to earn R100 000.
- Ashleigh Simon (RSA) 137 (-7) 70, 67
- Cecilie Lundgreen (Nor) 145 (+1) 72, 72
- Lauren Blease (Eng) 145 (+1) 72, 73
- Laurette Maritz (RSA) 147 (+3) 70, 77
- Tandi von Ruben (RSA) 148 (+4) 75 73
- Monique Smit (RSA) 150 (+6) 76 74
- Morgana Robbertze (RSA) 150 (+6) 75 75
- Nora Kagonyera (Swe) 151 (+7) 75, 76
- Shawnelle de Lange (RSA, ama) 151 (+7) 73, 78
- Iliska Verwey (RSA) 153 (+9) 77, 76
- Alana van Greuning (RSA) 153 (+9) 74 79
- Mandy Adamson (RSA) 154 (+10) 77, 77
- Carrie Park (RSA, ama) 154 (+10) 79, 75
- Magda Kruger (RSA, ama) 154 (+10) 75, 79