Tandi Von Ruben
EKURHULENI (27 February 2014) – Joburg native Ashleigh Simon carded an opening two-under-par 70 and is handily placed in a tie for the lead with Tandi Von Ruben at the second Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday.
But Simon could have held a two shot lead and lamented a rookie mistake early in the round.
“My playing partners (Lee-Anne Pace and amateur Magda Kruger) and I incurred a two-shot penalty each for playing off at the wrong teeing ground at the second hole,” Simon explained.
“We automatically went to the same tee box that we played from in the practice round. Luckily a spectator drove past and pointed it out, before we completed the hole. It’s a tough break, and a little embarrassing, but you just need to pick yourself up and get going again.”
The pacesetter lead by one stroke from Ladies European Tour campaigner Stacy Bregman and unheralded Francesca Cuturi, and have a two shot cushion on Pace.
Italy’s Sophie Sandolo slotted into the sixth with a one over 73 and finished one shot clear of LET rookies Nobuhle Dlamini and Nicole Garcia, Australia’s Maggie Yuan and Mae Cornforth from Potchefstroom, who leads the amateur field.
Simon came into the event off with good form after a second place finish at the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am on Sunday, while Von Ruben is chasing her second Sunshine Ladies Tour title after claiming the Sun International Challenge at Lost City in a play-off a fortnight ago.
Simon, a two-time European Ladies Tour champion, notched seven birdies and five bogeys, with four of her drops coming on the front nine. She turned in even-par.
“It definitely wasn’t pretty out there, especially over the front nine. Simon said.
“The course is playing very long due to all the rain and, with the rough up and the slick greens, you really need to be accurate. Any time you deviate, you pay the piper.”
Simon reeled in birdies at the 11th, bogeyed the 16th, and closed with two confidence building birdies.
“I played the back nine well, but at the 11th, I hit a good chip to four feet and the putt lipped out. Other than that blip on my card, it was a pretty solid nine.”
Von Ruben enjoyed an early brace of birdies at the second and third, lost the advantage with bogeys at the fifth and seventh but birdied the eighth reach the turn in red figures alongside Dlamini. She sandwiched a bogey between birdied at the 11th and 13th, before parring her way to a 70.
“I had a nice solid start, and I hit my tee shots and irons really well,” she said. “Missed the fairway at seven and had to scramble for a bogey. I missed the fairway right at the 12th; you just can’t hit it left at that hole and overcommitted on the tee shot, trying to make the line. Got it to the green, but I missed a slippery left-to-right putt for bogey. But otherwise, a pretty solid round.”
The front runners could be upstaged by Bregman, though, just back from an eight-week stint in Australasia, where she tied for third at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters.
The 27-year-old, who currently ranks third on the ISPS Handa Order of Merit, dropped just two shots offset by two gains in an otherwise solid performance.
“I am a little tired after eight weeks on the trot, but I’m just so thrilled that we have a home circuit again and I’m really happy to support the Sunshine Ladies Tour,” Bregman said. “The putter was a little cold, but I enjoyed myself out there. Glendower is always in mint condition and the greens are great.”
Bregman tees off alongside with Pace and Sandolo at 09.10 ahead of Simon, Von Ruben and Cuturi.