Ashleigh Simon Photo: Dale Boyce
TSHWANE (3 March 2014) – The unrelenting rain continued to pour down over The Els Club Copperleaf on Monday, but the wet weather did little to stop Ashleigh Simon from lining up her second successive Sunshine Ladies Tour title at the weather-affected Ladies Tshwane Open.
Just two days after she captured the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower, a confident Simon took the rain in her stride as she worked her way to a flawless six-under-par 66.
Simon holds a four shot lead over Norway’s Cecile Lundgreen, and will start the second round five clear of LET rookie Kim Williams, who overcame three early bogeys with four gains to for 71.
She is six strokes ahead of American Katie Burnett, who has the company of Sun International Challenge winner Tandi von Ruben and LET rookie Nicole Garcia on even-par 72.
However, second round action will only get underway Monique Smit completes her first round.
The Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am champion was level through 17, but play had to be called off when the inclement weather left the closing unplayable.
Simon, who poured in four birdie putts and holed out for an eagle two at the par-four seventh, credited bagman Dave Buhai for her flawless run.
“I couldn’t fit in a practice round on Sunday, but Dave knows the layout pretty well,” Simon explained.
“He caddied for Scott Henry from Scotland in last year’s Tshwane Open, so he I guess you could call him my ace-in-the-hole. He knew the lines and the best spots to aim for and the rest was up to me.”
Simon took advantage of the early drizzle to get going with a pair of birdies at the 11th and 12th.
“I hit driver, three-wood and gap-wedge at the par-five to about six feet and holed the putt and driver at the 12th,” she said. “I spun a wedge off the back slope to about three foot and sank the putt.
“I didn’t hit it as close as I would have liked coming in, but I had a lot of two-putts and didn’t drop a shot, so that was pretty good. Considering the amount of rain that has fallen here in the last couple of days, the greens are rolling really true and they are still unbelievably slick.”
Although the heavens opened once Simon turned, she made a birdie at the first and, after nearly holing a gap-wedge at the third, holed a short birdie putt at the fourth. At the seventh, she hit a well-judged nine-iron from 114 meters and watched it bounced once and disappear down the hole.
“It’s really great to have another low scoring round so soon, especially after an indifferent start to my season in Australia,” said Simon, who finished second at the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am before she roared to her first pro win on home soil with a final round 65 at Glendower.
“I just couldn’t feel it in Australia, but I started feeling it in George and I knew my game was coming together again. To have some solid, sub-par rounds is exactly what I’m looking for before I leave for the LPGA Tour later this month.”
Meanwhile Nobuhle Dlamini looked well on her way to challenge for the lead after she dipped to four under through six holes on her outward nine.
An unfortunate seven at the par-three 17th erased her advantage, but the Swazi pro bounced back with three consecutive birdies, only to drop three shots on the trot from the third. A fourth bogey at the fifth knocked her back to one over 73.
“I had a plugged lie against the lip of the bunker at 17 and my only shot was to play it back into the bunker,” Dlamini explained. “I had a decent lie, but when I connected with the ball, a huge rock come up from under the ball. I went bunker to bunker and when I tried to pitch the green, the ball hit a sprinkler head in the fringe and rolled back in the bunker.
“It’s one of those things you just cannot control. The bogeys after the turn…that was me getting ahead of myself. But at least I can recognise what happened. I’ll just have to come back stronger on Tuesday.”