Story: Lali Stander, photo: Catherine Kotze / SASPA

Sunshine Tour professional Grant Veenstra will have to come up with something quite spectacular to impress girlfriend Nicole Garcia after the Sunshine Ladies Tour player gave herself the perfect early Valentine’s gift at Glendower Golf Club on Friday.

The 24-year-old from Ebotse Golf Estate celebrated a maiden win in the R100,000 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies when she followed an opening five-under-par 67 with a steady 71 to triumph on six-under-par 138.
Garcia claimed a four stroke victory over South Africa’s top ranked amateur, 16-year-old Ivanna Samu from Ruimsig, who impressed with rounds of 70 and 72.

Defending champion Ashleigh Simon combatted jet-lag, but rallied with a pair of birdies over the final three holes for a 74 and a share of third on even-par 144 alongside top ranked amateur Kaleigh Telfer, who closed with a 73.
Garcia was absolutely thrilled to get the monkey off her back.

“I think Friday the 13th will forever be a good day,” Garcia said. “I never expected to be leading or to win, but I tell you, now I understand why people like winning so much. I don’t know how long it will take before I can wipe the smile off my face.”`

Before the Sun International Ladies Challenge two days ago, Garcia last competed in Morocco in December, where she won the First Stage of the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School and finished fifth in the Final Stage.

“I had a good final round in the Sun International Ladies Challenge to tie for third, but I still felt a little rusty, so my expectations were pretty low coming into this week.

“I hoped to get the rust off in the first couple of events to put myself in contention at the Investec Cup for Ladies in March, but this result puts me in the running nice and early.”

Before the Sun International Ladies Challenge, Garcia last competed in Morocco in December, where she won the First Stage of the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School and finished fifth in the Final Stage.

Garcia protected her lead through the turn, but the going got tougher on the homebound loop.

“The course was playing a lot tougher, especially on the back nine,” Garcia said. “I kept the lead through 12 holes, but let it slip with a three-putt bogey at the 13th. Ivanna birdied the par five to join me at three under and the pressure was on.”

She parred the 14th, and finished birdie-birdie-par-birdie with some brilliant shot-making to finish well clear of the teenager.

The Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies culminates from March 20-22 with the end-of-season Investec Cup for Ladies, which boasts a R100,000 prize fund and R600,000 bonus pool.

Garcia earned 250 points for her victory and vaulted into second place in the rankings. She lags just 13.5 points behind Lee-Anne Pace, who leads the rankings with 400 points after her triumph in the season-opening Cell C SA Women’s Open last year.

Garcia said the Sunshine Ladies Tour has given professional women’s golf in South Africa a tremendous boost.

“There is no better way to prepare for Europe than with our Sunshine Ladies Tour,” she said.

“For me, it’s a good indication of where my game is and the younger pros and amateurs have this great opportunity to gain experience and to make an informed decision about their future.

“I believe I could have kept my LET card if there was a tour like this around when I was an amateur.”
The champion keeps up with the news from the amateur circuit and was impressed with the emerging talent.

“Ivanna represented us in the Astor Trophy and performed brilliantly in her international debut to win three Singles and two Foursomes with Bertine Strauss,” Garcia said.

“Kaleigh represented South Africa at the Summer Youth Olympics in China as our country’s first Olympian. They both held their own out there and were really impressive under pressure and I believe they are two great prospects for the future.”

The amateurs will get another chance to impress when the Sunshine Ladies Tour heads to George to challenge in the R200,000 Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am at the Oubaai Golf Club and Fancourt Outeniqua on 22-21 February, but only the professionals will have a chance to contest for the prize money and an additional Pro-Am purse worth R25,000.

FINAL RESULT

138 Nicole Garcia (RSA) 67 71

142 Ivanna Samu AMA (RSA) 70 72

144 Kaleigh Telfer AMA (RSA) 71 73; Ashleigh Simon (RSA) 70 74

145 Kim Williams (RSA) 73 72

146 Rebecca Hudson (ENG) 70 76

148 Stacy Bregman (RSA) 71 77

150 Iliska Verwey (RSA) 75 75

152 Melissa Eaton (RSA) 76 76

153 Symone Henriques AMA (RSA) 76 77; Monja Richards (RSA) 75 78; Morgana Robbertze (RSA) 74 79; Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 74 79

154 Michelle Leigh (RSA) 76 78; Cherry Moulder (RSA) 74 80; Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 73 81; Chiara Contomathios AMA (RSA) 73 81

155 Charlotte Ellis (ENG) 77 78; Lauren Taylor (ENG) 77 78; Lucy Williams (ENG) 77 78; Tandi von Ruben (RSA) 79 76; Tijana Kraljevic (RSA) 76 79

156 Cara Gorlei AMA (RSA) 77 79; Woo-Ju Son AMA (RSA) 78 78; Danielle du Toit AMA (RSA) 81 75

157 Eva Steinberger (AUT) 77 80

158 Hermione Fitzgerald (IRL) 82 76

159 Kirsty Fisher (ENG) 82 77

160 Natasha Carlsson AMA (RSA) 77 83; Catherine Lau AMA (RSA) 78 82; Bianca Theron AMA (RSA) 80 80; Nora Kagonyera (SWE) 82 78

161 Mandy Adamson (RSA) 79 82

162 Sarah Bouch AMA (RSA) 80 82; Sarah Blythe-Wood AMA (ZIM) 83 79

163 Shawnelle de Lange AMA (RSA) 77 86; Monique Smit (RSA) 82 81

164 Carmia van Wyk (RSA) 82 82

165 Michelle Swanepoel AMA (RSA) 78 87; Casandra Hall AMA (RSA) 81 84

167 Uloma Mbuko (NGR) 84 83

168 Chevonne Botha (RSA) 80 88; Julie Bruyns (RSA) 85 83; Alana van Greuning (RSA) 85 83