England’s Matharu on top at Cape Town Ladies Open
There were some familiar faces at the top end of the Sunshine Ladies Tour leaderboard as the first round of the Cape Town Ladies Open drew to a close at Royal Cape Golf Club on Wednesday.
Former Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Kiran Matharu fired a round of six-under-par 68 to surge to the top of the leaderboard.
The English golfer, who finished tie-sixth at the same venue a year ago, opened up a two-shot lead over last year’s runner up Anne-Lise Caudal from France, Tiia Kovisto from Finland and GolfRSA Elite Squad amateur Kajal Mistry.
Former SA Women’s champion Tandi McCallum, fifth last year, was a further shot back.
Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace got her campaign off to a solid start with a round of two-under 72 to share sixth with Lora Assad and Carrie Park from South Korea.
Matharu offset seven birdies, including five on the back nine, with a solitary bogey to stamp her authority on the event. “I didn’t really see that round coming to be honest,” the Leeds golfer explained.
“I’ve been struggling over the last couple of weeks, but it all came together today. If you’re accurate off the tee, Royal Cape offers a lot of birdie chances and I managed to do that today, so I’m very happy with the start.”
Caudal – still hunting a maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour victory – lost to Pace in a playoff last year and she was delighted to find form on a course that she feels very comfortable on.
“I played really well today,” she said. “I hit two bad drives, which cost me two bogeys and I missed two short birdie putts, but I’m very happy with four under. I just love this course.”
With the Royal Cape course set up to a par of 74 that includes no fewer than six par fives, there are lots of scoring opportunities for the players.
Finland’s Kovisto took full advantage on the back nine with a pair of eagles and a birdie en route to her 70 in her debut on the local circuit.
Mistry also continued her fine form in the Sunshine Ladies Tour series. The diminutive 18-year-old, who is headed to the University of Arkansas in the US later this year, has had finishes of tie-20th, tie-4th, 2nd and tie-8th this season. Returning to the same venue where she won the Nomads SA Rose Bowl Championship last year sparked another positive performance and her round of 70 included three birdies, an eagle and a bogey.
“I’m really enjoying myself out here. I think it’s the relief of being finished with school and having golf as my main focus for the next few months,” explained the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member.
“I’m really excited about going to college, but until then it’s going to be golf, golf and more golf. I’ve played with a lot of good professionals and learned a lot about course management, which I’ve applied to my own game and it’s paying off.”
Pace is still very much in the hunt for a 12th Sunshine Ladies Tour title after carding 72.
“I struck the ball fantastically,” Pace said. “I just received my new Apex irons from Callaway. They go quite a bit further, but I’ve adjusted well. I had the speed of the greens, but I just wasn’t hitting them on line. If a few more dropped, I might even have been leading.”
Having experienced the course in benign conditions during the opening round, players can look forward to some challenging conditions for the rest of the week, with rain predicted for the second round and strong winds expected in the final round.
“I’m normally pretty good in windy conditions, so it won’t bother me,” explained Pace. “I’m only a few shots behind, and on a course like this anything can happen.”
Park, who led the South African Amateur rankings for two years, and holds three Sunshine Ladies Tour trophies, could be the dark horse to watch.
The petite Seoul golfer only landed in Cape Town last night and got it to four-under and co-led the opening round at one stage on four-under. “I was a little tired today, but that’s nothing a good night’s sleep won’t fix,” said Park, who took her winning form on the Sunshine Ladies Tour last year to her native Korea, where she landed a card for the Korean LPGA Tour this year with a top 20 finish on the qualifying tour.
“I timed coming back to South Africa so I could play Royal Cape this week. I’ve always loved this course. I’m just four shots behind and with six par fives, you can make that up pretty quickly if you’re driving the ball well and the putter is behaving.”
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Written and released by Lali Stander and Brendan Barratt on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.
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