Written by Lali Stander and Mike Green on behalf of the Sunshine Ladies Tour
Spain’s Laura Gomez Ruiz carded a one-under-par 71 at Steenberg Golf Club on Monday to lead five qualifiers into the main draw of the Investec South African Women’s Open, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Ladies European Tour.
Ruiz was the only player who dipped into red figures on a blustery Cape Town morning, making three birdies and two bogeys to top the field by one stroke from Katja Pogacar of Slovenia and fellow-Spaniard Elena Hualde.
Ruiz, who has played on the Ladies European Tour for four years, and is in South Africa for the fourth time, drew on experience at Steenberg to top the leaderboard.
“I played the course last year, so I knew it from before and that helped,” she said. “It’s very tricky, especially these greens. Uphill and downhill, it makes a big difference, especially with the wind. If the wind was from behind, the putt was really fast.”
While the wind made things tricky, Ruiz had recent experience of much tougher windy conditions to draw on. “Two weeks ago, I played the Cape Town Ladies Open at Atlantic Beach, and that was brutal,” she said. “It was the hardest conditions I have ever played in my life. So today, this wind was a breeze. It was a one-and-a-half to two-club wind.”
It was the wind that saw her drop a shot on the first hole. “I don’t know why, but it was super windy on the first hole,” said Ruiz. “After the first hole, it calmed down a bit. The birdie on seven, it was 145 metres downhill, and I hit an eight-iron. I usually hit my eight-iron 125. On 11, I hit a really good driver, and I was between clubs, and I hit the wrong one. I went over the green, and then I chipped in. The last three holes where I made par, they were quite tough, especially with the wind. On 17, downhill, downwind, 128 metres, I hit a pitching wedge, which I usually hit 110.”
The other two who made it into the field of 132 who will tee off on Wednesday were Helen Kreuzer from Germany and Nigeria’s Georgia Iziemgbe Oboh, who returned rounds of two-over-par 74.
For Ruiz, topping the qualifier is a chance to make up for her performance in last year’s Investec South African Women’s Open. “I did not make the cut last year – I was two or three off,” she said. “I know what to expect this time.”