JOHANNESBURG, 14 February 2014 - Not even if the celebrated Stephen Spielberg himself had produced the final round of the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies could he have added more drama to the last nine holes than newly-minted champion Kim Williams supplied in her pro debut victory at Houghton Golf Club.
The Pretoria player led by one after an opening 70 in the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s launch event and carded a 73 to edge out fellow rookie Nicole Garcia for a one stroke victory on one-under-par 143. But the 27-year-old was the first to admit that “this was not a pretty win.”
“I’ve never been able to hit a wedge 120 metres, but I guess I’ve learned nervous adrenaline will do for your game,” joked a delighted and relieved Williams.
“The last four holes certainly wasn’t pretty and actually, I didn’t even know I had a two shot lead playing the last. When I tapped in for birdie, I thought it was for a play-off with Nicole. It was only when someone in the crowd around the green shouted ‘Hey Kim, never mind the bogey, a win is a win’, that I registered I’d won.”
The former SA number one amateur described her maiden pro win as both a celebration and justification.
“I’m really so extremely happy right now,” she gushed. “This win means so much to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my pro career and to show them getting my LET card last year wasn’t a fluke. I’m also really happy to show Paul (van der Schyff) from Sunlight Solar that he has backed the right horse.”
Williams dove to five under with birdies at the second, fourth and fifth holes, but turned just one clear of Garcia after bogeys at sixth and eight. “I knew Nix was playing well ahead of me, and the tough nine was still coming, so I just wanted to play percentage golf and keep my lead safe,” she said.
“I got back to four under with a birdie at the 11th and was fine through the next couple of holes, but then the wheels fell off a bit.”
A poor tee shot at the 15th left Williams stuck below some trees, with only one option. “I punched out and took my punishment. Overshot the green at 16 completely; had the right club, but just too must strength. I knew nailing the par-putt at 17 was crucial to stay in front.
“But coming down 18, though, I didn’t realise that Nix had bogeyed the last.”
Williams had just 115 metres to the pin, but her shot into the green flew clear past the flag and caught on the back fringe. Trying to dial down her nerves, she got overcautious and left the first putt well short.
“I left myself a tricky downhill 12-footer and it slipped just past the hole,” Williams explained. “So, I guess it’s true what they say; sometimes a bogey is also good enough.”
Garcia, meanwhile, dropped three shots in succession from the 16th to finish second. “I was disappointed for about 20 seconds, but I am very happy for Kim,” said the 23-year-old from Ebotse Golf Estate. “I was hoping for a top five, so second is still a goal achieved this week. We have six more events to go, and I will be working towards winning one of those.”
Garcia’s normal caddie might also be out of a job, after former Sunshine Tour player and well-renowned coach Robbie Stewart kept her company at Houghton.
“Grant (Veenstra) usually caddies for me, but since he made the qualifier for the Africa Open, Robbie took the bag. He was calmed me down, gave me pep talks and just incredible on the greens. Grant might have to become just a spectator in the future,” she joked.
The biggest surprise on the day was a two-under-par 70 served up by top SA junior golfer Michaela Fletcher.
The Pietermaritzburg amateur arrived at Houghton on the back of winning the Eastern Province Match Play Championship on Tuesday and walked away with a share of third on two over 146 in her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut with Louw, Smit and Tandi von Ruben.
Fletcher attributed her eight shot improvement to a hot putter and the positive impact of her playing partners.
“I played with Laurette Maritz and Nora Kagonyera from Nigeria, and they were just incredible to me,” said the Pietermaritzburg golfer.
“They constantly chatted and Laurette, who is such a legend of the game, was amazing. She kept me calm between shots sharing her experience and knowledge.
“I am really thankful that the Sunshine Ladies Tour has given my fellow amateurs and I the opportunity to play with the pros’ the last two days has been simply amazing.”
Final results from the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Chase to the Investec Cup, played at the par-72 Houghton Golf Club on Friday, 14 February 2014; all competitors RSA unless otherwise specified. Amateurs indicated as (AMA).
143 Kim Williams 70 73
144 Nicole Garcia 72 72
146 Michaela Fletcher (AMA) 76 70; Tandi von Ruben 74 72; Caryn Louw 71 75; Monique Smit 71 75
147 Holly Aitchison ENG 71 76
148 Nora Kagonyera SWE 76 72; Morgana Robbertze 75 73
149 Lauren Blease ENG 76 73; Mandy Adamson 73 76
150 Woo-Ju Son (AMA) 77 73
151 Henriette Frylinck 77 74; Cecilie Lundgreen NOR 74 77; Michelle Leigh 72 79
152 Carrie Park (AMA) KOR 78 74
153 Laurette Maritz 76 77
154 Chrystal Cooper (AMA) 79 75; Magda Kruger (AMA) 77 77
155 Michelle Swanepoel (AMA) 79 76
156 Kayleigh Telfer (AMA) 77 79; Maggie Yuan AUS 73 83
157 Iliska Verwey 77 80; Nobuhle Dlamini SWA 77 80; Nicola Eaton 80 77
158 Mae Cornforth (AMA) 80 78; Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 81 77
159 Nicole Becker 79 80; Rachel Drummond ENG 79 80; Francesca Cuturi 79 80; Hermione Fitzgerald (SUI) 78 81; Danielle du Toit (AMA) 79 80; Ji-Sun Kang (AMA) KOR 80 79; Tijana Kraljevic 80 79; Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 81 78; Alana van Greuning 85 74
161 Monja Richards (AMA) 77 84
162 Shawnelle de Lange (AMA) 81 81; Chevonne Botha (AMA) 84 78
164 Julie Bruyns 78 86; Crizelda van Niekerk 81 83; Michelle de Vries 81 83; Alra van den Berg 83 81
166 Natasha Carlsson (AMA) 81 85; Carmia van Wyk (AMA) 83 83; Casandra Hall (AMA) 87 79
168 Uloma Mbuko (NGR) 84 84
170 Katia Shaff (AMA) 82 88
176 Kirsten Campbell (AMA) 87 89