Buhai hits a high note at Joburg Ladies Open

Ashleigh Buhai

Ashleigh Buhai made a strong case for an eighth Sunshine Ladies Tour title with a sparkling four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the Joburg Ladies Open on Wednesday.

Maintaining the good form that earned her second in the season-opening Canon Ladies Tshwane Open last week, South Africa’s leading international golfer made a flying start at Modderfontein Golf Club.

Buhai racked up four birdies in her outward loop and moved to six-under with another pair of gains at the first and second holes. But her three shot lead dwindled to one with bogeys at seven and nine.

“My mind drifted a little and I three-putted from a short distance at seven, so I was a little annoyed about the bogey, but it’s golf; you just have to take it on the chin and move on,” said last year’s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion.

“I put myself in an impossible position off the tee. I caught the face of the greenside bunker and had a very awkward stance, so I wasn’t disappointed with the bogey finish.”
Buhai attributed her first round performance to accurate tee shots and a short-game.

“I drove the ball really well and I hit a lot of great wedge-shots really close,” said the 28-year-old Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer. “I gave myself a lot of chances. The greens are immaculate and running so true. The birdies are out there if you put yourself in the right spots on the greens.”

The two-time Ladies European Tour champion is heading for Australia next week and admits that she would love to leave with the title and a leg-up on the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit.

“I would really love to win the Joburg Ladies Open,” said Buhai. “I didn’t manage it when we played it at my home course, so maybe this is my week. Winning would also leave me in a good position until I return to South Africa in March to play the Investec South African Women’s Open.”

To lift the trophy, Buhai will have to stave off a chasing pack that includes fellow Ladies European Tour player Lauren Taylor from England.

Looking to improve on a joint runner-up finish last year, Taylor finished at two-under, one shot back from Sunshine Ladies Tour regular Hanna Roos from Sweden. She shares third with French newcomer Emie Peronnin and second-season South African professional Ivanna Samu.

Carrie Park, who is back from her native South Korea where she earned a card for the Korean LPGA Tour, will be defending her SA Women’s Masters title at San Lameer next month.

Park made 16 pars, a bogey at 16 and a birdie at seven to grab a share of sixth with former Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Kiran Matharu from England, Mariell Bruun from Norway and last week’s Canon Ladies Tshwane Open champion Stacy Bregman.

Lee-Anne Pace, who won the inaugural event in 2016, was forced to retire after five holes.

“I picked up a bug and already felt weak during Tuesday’s Pro-Am, but I was determined to start,” said Pace. “The course is in such great condition and the greens are fast, just as I like them to be, so it was gut-wrenching to have to pull out. I wish everyone a great tournament.”

A trio of amateurs – Azelia Meichtry from Switzerland, reigning Nomads SA Girls Rosebowl champion Kaiyuree Moodley and 13-year-old Kiera Floyd – close out the top 10 at one-over-par 73 alongside England’s Hayley Davis and Alexandra Lennartsson from Sweden.

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