Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Laura Fuenfstueck produced a stunning fightback to win the SA Women’s Masters at San Lameer Country Club on Saturday.
The German golfer staved off South African Lejan Lewthwaite, Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland and 18-year-old Scottish amateur Shannon McWilliam to claim a maiden victory in just her fifth start in the pro ranks.
The 23-year-old Fuenfstueck took a big leap towards the breakthrough victory when she seized the outright lead with a second round 69.
She began the final day with a handy two-shot cushion over Gemma Batty – another member of the visiting Scottish Golf Women’s National Squad – while Port Shepstone golfer Melissa Eaton and Lewthwaite were three shots back and Dlamini lagged five off the pace.
Fuenfstueck began with two solid pars, but backpedalled fast with double bogeys at three and six, where her ball stayed up in one of the tall palm trees, and further bogeys at nine and 10 dropped her to one-over.
“I was so fortunate to have Rachel (Rossel – Switzerland) on the bag,” said Fuenfstueck.
“She missed the cut and she immediately offered to take the bag. I played decent golf and she kept me going. I wasn’t playing badly; I just didn’t hit it close enough. So I stayed patient in the wind and tried to hit some good shots.”
Dlamini, meanwhile, racked up three successive birdies from the eighth to move to two-under, but a double bogey at 15 put paid to the big-hitting Swazi golfer’s maiden title hopes. She parred her way home and signed for a 72 to set the clubhouse target at even-par 216.
Lewthwaite offset bogeys at six and nine with birdies at seven and 13, but bogeyed both short holes on the back nine. The Benoni golfer carded a 74 to join Dlamini in the clubhouse and McWilliam made it three on level par when she returned a 73.
Fuenfstueck was six-over after 11 holes, but showed great courage to fight her way back into contention with birdies at 12 and 14. A bogey at 15 and par at 16 put her in a three-way tie for second with two holes to play.
“I hit a great tee shot at 17 and a good second and I laid it up where I wanted to,” Fuenfstueck said.
“I had a good yardage in and I knew exactly where I wanted to hit it. The shot came out perfect. I had a 15-footer left for birdie and I saw the line clearly.
“I had a one shot lead, but still had 18 to go. I had a bogey finish in the second round in the back of my mind, so I just tried to hit two good shots into the green. My approach landed right at the back of the green, but my lag-putting was really good this week and didn’t let me down. It was a huge relief to tap-in for the win, and not have to stand over another three-foot putt.”
Fuenfstueck said a top 10 finish in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am changed her mind-set.
“When I came out here, all I wanted was to gain experience and to make the cut,” she said.
“I was really happy when I made my first cut in the Canon Ladies Tshwane Open and I improved every week. After Fancourt I thought that I shouldn’t focus on the cut anymore; I should raise my expectations. It looks like that was the right move.”
Fuenfstueck will join the field next week in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge, presented by Sun International, at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club and finish the season in Investec South African Women’s Open at Westlake Golf Club from the 8 - 10 March.
“I hope I have another good week at the Wild Coast to take momentum to Westlake,” she said. “I only have conditional status on the Ladies European Tour, so I have to make the last event count for me in the rankings. But first things first; we’re going to party tonight.”
McWilliam, meanwhile, will be gunning for a hat-trick of trophies at the Wild Coast Sun.
The 18-year-old, who won the Border Championship by three strokes at East London Golf Club last week, lifted the Sally Little Trophy as the Leading Amateur in the SA Women’s Masters.
All players RSA unless otherwise stated and amateurs are indicated as AMA
215 - Laura Fuenfstueck (GER) 70 69 76
216 - Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 71 73 72, Shannon McWilliam AMA (SCO) 71 72 73, Lejan Lewthwaite 73 69 74, Melissa Eaton 73 69 74
217 - Lora Assad 70 73 74
218 - Azelia Meichtry AMA (SUI) 72 73 73
219 - Nicole Garcia 75 72 72, Kim Williams 68 75 76
220 - Camilla Hedberg (ESP) 78 71 71, Ivanna Samu 71 74 75, Stina Resen (NOR) 74 70 76
221 - Gemma Batty AMA (SCO) 71 70 80
222 - Kiran Matharu (ENG) 73 74 75
223 - Hannah Arnold (USA) 73 81 69
224 - Woo-Ju Son AMA 72 75 77, Lynn Carlsson (SWE) 72 74 78
225 - Hayley Davis (ENG) 78 73 74, Jamila Jaxaliyeva (KAZ) 70 77 78, Rachael Goodall (ENG) 74 72 79
226 - Annelie Weimenhog (SWE) 76 78 72, Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 83 69 74, Lauren Taylor (ENG) 76 75 75
227 - Tandi Mc Callum 74 78 75, Mariell Bruun (NOR) 70 79 78, Emie Peronnin (FRA) 79 70 78, Maria Beautell (ESP) 77 71 79
228 - Jane Turner (SCO) 82 71 75, Danielle du Toit AMA 81 71 76
229 - Francesca Cuturi 78 71 80
230 - Jessica Karlsson (SWE) 78 75 77
231 - Alexandra Lennartsson (SWE) 81 73 77, Zane Naude AMA 73 75 83
234 - Lara Weinstein 75 74 85
235 - Mimmi Bergman (SWE) 76 78 81, Zethu Myeki AMA 72 81 82, Clara Pietri (SUI) 77 74 84