SUN CITY (18 January 2006) – The South African team of Laurette Maritz and Ashleigh Simon have predicted they can not only improve on their 12th place in last year’s Women’s World Cup of Golf but challenge for the title in this year’s event, which tees off at Sun City on Friday.

“Last year Ashleigh and I were just trying to understand our roles as partners and we were just trying to keep our heads above water and make a good impression. This year I feel we are real contenders. We’re both very prepared and I think we have a great chance,” said Maritz.

It’s a bold prediction for this year’s event which has a field including world number one Annika Sorenstam, six Solheim Cup players, 10 of the LPGA Tour’s top 30 players and 13 of the top 30 from the Ladies European Tour.

The South Africans are paired with defending champions Japan in Friday’s opening Betterball matches, which are followed by Saturday’s Foursomes and Sunday’s Singles.

And Maritz is well aware of the challenge they face.

“I think if you ask who our biggest challenge will be then I’ll tell you the whole field. The best in the world are here, including world number one Annika Sorenstam. But to be honest, I think the course will be our biggest challenge.”

The Gary Player Country Club course certainly has a reputation of being one of the toughest layouts in the game. Through its hosting of the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge, that reputation has not escaped the American duo of Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer, who are one of the strongest pairings in the 20-nation event.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to play. It’s very demanding off the tees and you have to hit a lot of fairways and greens,” said Gulbis, who almost had to be replaced because of passport trouble that was resolved at the last minute.

“The kikuyu rough is certainly not something we’re used to. The ball either sits up in it or disappears completely,” added Creamer.

English star Laura Davies gets her first look at the course this week and believes the scoring will not be that low.

“I’ve watched a lot of men’s tournaments here over the years and have heard a lot about this course. It’s great to be here finally and playing it. It looks like there are a lot of risk and reward holes out there, which is what I like.”

Japan’s Ai Miyazato, one of the rising stars of the women’s game who was the backbone behind her country’s victory at Fancourt last year, said she was relishing defending their title.

“It’s great to be here again. It’s going to be an exciting event.”

She also backed up the confidence Maritz has in the South African challenge when she said, “By looking at them last year they have a pretty good team. They’re very confident. We’re just going to go out there and try our best.”