The Star Late Edition

Huge incentive for SA women


IT’S Investec South African Women’s Open week in Cape Town.

That means it’s the 2021 Sunshine Ladies Tour season finale. It’s the curtain-raiser for the 2021 Race to Costa del Sol. And it’s open season for the 76th US Women’s Open in June.

Westlake Golf Club was bustling with excitement during the official practice round as the news spread that South Africa’s flagship event has been awarded four qualificat­ion spots for the season’s second Major.

With only one player in the field already qualified – Celine Herbin from France – the other 114 lining up in the €200 000 (about R3,4million) Sunshine Ladies Tour and European Ladies Tour’s co-sanctioned event will go all out to punch their ticket for the Olympic Club in June.

One golfer hoping to book a flight to San Francisco is three-time

Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Nicole Garcia.

“In 2014, I played the sectional qualifier at Buckingshi­re Golf Club just outside London. There were eight spots on offer and I grabbed one,” enthused the Ebotse, Benoni, golfer.

“I was so excited because that year, the US Women’s Open was played directly after the US Open at Pinehurst. I travelled to the US with

my fiancée (acclaimed South African coach Grant Veenstra) and we attended the US Open first, because he had some guys he coached in the field.

“Then it was my turn. I was only four months into my rookie season on the Ladies European Tour. I realised quickly that I was out of my depth.

“It was one of the most amazing experience­s of my life, though; it really gave me a window into the world I have been working towards.”

With nearly 1 600 entries from 57 countries for this year’s Major in California, Garcia said South Africans have to step up in a big way this week.

“I’ve tried almost every year since, but lately we only got one or two spots in Europe, so it’s really tough.

“There are 24 sectional qualifiers in the United States and one in Japan, so this is a massive opportunit­y for us to get four Sunshine Ladies Tour members in the field. We simply must step it up this week.”

Garcia is champing at the bit to reboot her career after spending two years on the sidelines.

“I spent the better part of the 2019 season on the bench due to hip surgery. It’s hard not to think what could have been if I hadn’t had the surgery, but I try to focus on the future.”

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