Nobuhle Dlamini Photo: SASPA
Nobuhle Dlamini set up the chance of a maiden pro win at the SuperSport Challenge with a two-under-par 70 at Observatory Golf Club on Thursday.
The powerful hitter from Swaziland reeled in six birdies, including two at the closing holes, for a one stroke lead in the sixth event in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies series.
But Dlamini is well aware that it will take a low scoring round to hold off her challengers.
She has former amateur rival and Chase to Investec for Ladies champion Kim Williams, Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am winner Monique Smit, and Sun International Challenge winner Tandi von Ruben hot on her heels, while eight-time Ladies European Tour champion Lee-Anne Pace lurks two shots off the pace.
“I definitely can’t afford to get complacent Monique, Kim and Tandi behind me,” said Dlamini.
“And Lee-Anne was hitting it close and if she finds the measure of the greens on Friday, she will be unstoppable. But I’m pleased to be in a challenging position again.
“It’s been a while, but the swing changes are starting to work. I just need to trust my shots and commit to them a bit more.”
Dlamini had an indifferent start to her season with a tie for 23 in her pro debut in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton, and a joint 14th in the Sun International Challenge at Lost City.
“I made some swing changes before the Tour began and I just wasn’t comfortable in the first couple of events,” she said.
“I knew my game was getting to where it should be when I tied for fourth at the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am, although I was a little disappointed with a tie for 10th at Glendower. I made a great recovery at the Ladies Tshwane Open, though, to finish in the top 10. I feel like I am hitting the ball well, but just not scoring. It’s great to shoot a sub-par round again.”
Like some of the other players in the field, Dlamini had never seen the Observatory layout before and didn’t get a chance to play a practice round after the unavoidable change of venue when Zwartkops Country Club was deemed unplayable due to the recent flooding.
The former world number three amateur credited her caddie for helping her notch birdies at the second, sixth, ninth, 11th, 17th and 18th.
“He knows the course very well, so I just trusted his judgement when he told me to go with a driver or rescue or wood,” she said. “It took us a couple of holes to get our distances sorted out, hence the bogeys at the first and third, but after that we clicked well.”
Von Ruben, Smit and Williams were equally impressed with the speed with which the WPGA acquired another venue for the SuperSport Challenge. Trio were in agreement that the course surprised everyone.
“It’s a fantastic layout,” said Von Ruben, who enjoyed a flawless run at Observatory.
“There are some beautiful holes out, and it’s very well laid out. Unfortunately the flooding that followed their hollow-tining has slowed down the greens and left them a little bumpy, but it’s the same for everyone, so you just need to go out there and do your best.”
Smit and Williams are part of a large group departing for Morocco this weekend to compete in the Ladies European Tour’s €450,000 Lalla Meryem Cup.
Williams, who birdied four of her last five holes, believes a solid finish at Observatory will boost her confidence ahead of her LET debut.
“We are heading down the home straight and vying to make the top 10 for the Investec Ladies Cup,” she said. “It’s really fantastic that the WPGA didn’t cancel and move the SuperSport Challenge to next week.
“It will be great to leave South Africa knowing I’ve cemented my position for the final.”
Pace, who finished fourth at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower, missed the Ladies Tshwane Open and will be hunting a top three finish to secure her spot in the final, as well.
“I missed only three greens, but I just wasn’t making putts,” the former LET number one said.
“The greens are a little slow and bumpy, so I’ll just need to get the ball closer on Friday. I’m just outside the top 10 now, so I need to finish strong if I want to book my berth for the Investec Ladies Cup.”