Ashleigh Simon Photo: Catherine Kotza / SASPA
Two-time champions Monique Smit and Ashleigh Simon will go head-to-head in pursuit of a Sunshine Ladies Tour hat-trick in the final Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Blue Valley Golf and Country Estate on Thursday.
Order of Merit leader Smit held off a charging Simon to claim the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am and outlasted Lee-Anne Pace at Observatory Golf Club to clinch the SuperSport Challenge on Friday.
Simon, ranked second, claimed four-stroke victories at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower and the Ladies Tshwane Open at The Els Club Copperleaf.
For two-time Ladies European Tour champion Simon, the victories were her first on home soil, while for Smit, it marked a breakthrough since the former top amateur joined the pro ranks in 2012.
“The two victories against players like Ashleigh and Lee-Anne has really boosted my self-belief,” Smit said. “I’m definitely not greedy, but I really want to challenge again this week. I want to retain my position at the top of the money list going in the Investec Cup for Ladies. I also want to put myself in a position to challenge every time. It’s really the only way to learn to cope under pressure.”
Smit expects a strong challenge from Simon, though.
“Ashleigh is going to come out firing this week, because she is leaving for the LPGA Tour next week and is missing the final. She will want to out with a bang, and I would want the same in her place.”
While Smit and Simon do their two-step, the R100,000 event at the Midrand golf estate represents a much bigger challenge for the players idling around the number 10 spot on the current money list.
“Only the top 10 available professionals on the Order of Merit following this event, will qualify for the Investec Cup for Ladies,” explained Simon.
“That means there is a lot riding on this event for players like Morgana (Robbertze), Mandy (Adamson), Tijana (Kraljevic) and Laurette Maritz, who are just outside the top.
“This tournament is the last chance saloon for them, so you can count on them coming out guns blazing.”
Simon’s early departure for the LPGA Founders Cup opens up a coveted spot in the top 10, but the hopeful candidates also received another reprieve with five of the top 10 players on the current money list not lining up at Blue Valley this week.
Kim Williams, Nicole Garcia, Lee-Anne Pace, Nobuhle Dlamini and Stacy Lee Bregman – respectively ranked third, fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th – are all competing in this week’s Lalla Meryem Cup on the Ladies European Tour.
However, the five LET players have committed to return for the Investec Cup for Ladies at Millvale Private Retreat and the Lost City Golf Course at Sun City from 21-23 March, providing they can retain their places in the top 10.
“The absence of the LET players definitely increases their chances and, with a winner’s cheque worth R14,000, any player ranked between 11th to 30th has a chance to pass Stacy in the 10th spot,” Simon said.
“If you add to that prize money worth R300,000 for the Investec Cup for Ladies and a first place cheque valued at R100,000, they have plenty incentive to play for this week.
“No doubt, this tournament will be the toughest, yet.”