As always, there is a palpable sense of nervous anticipation as the golfers start to arrive in the Mother City for South Africa’s flagship event and the mouth-watering incentives the season-finale carries.
This year is no exception as the big guns of the game prepare to contest a €200 000 prize fund, starts in two Majors this year – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship – plus a winner’s category exemption on the Ladies European Tour (LET) until the end of 2021 and the right to be acclaimed as South Africa’s Women’s Open champion.
The field this year exudes class and quality, from three-time champions Ashleigh Buhai and Lee-Anne Pace to defending champion Diksha Dagar from India.
The international posse also stars former Ladies European Tour winners Carly Booth from Sweden’s Jenny Haglund and Scotland, England’s Meghan Maclaren, while Julia Engstrom from Sweden and Manon de Roey from Belgium have to be firm favourites after respectively finishing first and second in the recent Women’s New South Wales Open.
The local challenge is further strengthened by 2020 champions Monique Smit, Nicole Garcia, Lejan Lewthwaite, already a two-time winner this season
Westlake awaits those consumed with a desire to lift the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s flagship trophy in the same swashbuckling style of Buhai’s final round match to victory in 2018 or the 18-year-old Dagar’s masterful maiden professional win 12 months ago.
Pace – the only player to win the championship in three successive years since its inception in 1988 – came agonisingly close to becoming the championship’s first four-time winner last year, while the event’s only amateur champion Buhai is just as hungry to re-write the annals of South African golfing history with a fourth triumph.
The favourites are joined by reigning Investec Order of Merit leader Stacy Bregman.
The five-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner was second in 2013, third in 2017 and fourth in 2019 and, buoyed by a third place finish in the Joburg Ladies Open and second in last week’s Jabra Ladies Classic, Bregman will be looking to ride that rich vein of form to finally clinch that elusive first LET win.
Karolin Lampert and Michelle Thompson should not be overlooked, either.
Germany’s Lampert is kicking off her Ladies European Tour season in Cape Town channelling the positive vibes of a runner-up finish in 2018, while Thompson gave chase last year. Coming off a top 10 finish in Australia the Scot can be expected to be among the early frontrunners this week.
A total of 90 players from the LET will tee it up in the 2020 Investec SA Women’s Open, while the balance of the 132 playing field includes 30 leading players on the 2019 Sunshine Ladies Tour player rankings, five invitations, two leading amateurs and five qualifiers.
Sisters Yolanda and Siviwe Duma from East London, India’s Sharmila Nicollet, Swiss golfer Caroline Rominger and Rosie Davies from England secured invitations, while the two leading amateurs are GolfRSA Elite Squad members Kaylah Williams from Western Province and Boland golfer Megan Streicher.
Clara Petrie from Switzerland won the qualifying round on Monday, with compatriot Christina Gloor and amateur trio Kaiyuree Moodley, Bobbi Brown and Bianca Wernich securing the final four spots.
The tournament tees off on Thursday, 12 March and there will be a cut to 60 and ties after 36 holes. The champion will be crowned on Saturday, 14 March and, at the conclusion of the Investec SA Women’s Open, the winner of the 2020 Investec Order of Merit will also be crowned and receive a bonus prize of R100 000.
Entry is free to the 2020 event, there is ample parking and public catering is available at the clubhouse.