Sunday, 10 April 2011
RUSTENBURG, North West (10 April 2010) – Illiska Verwey stamped her authority on the SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship when she opened up a yawning gap on her challengers in the first round at Rustenburg Golf Club.
The 22-year-old from Craddock continued her fine run of recent form with a five-under-par 67. She leads by three shots from defending champion Kim Williams, local favourite Bertine Strauss, Monique Smit and Nicole Becker.
Lejan Lewthwaite and Henrietta Frylink tied for sixth on one-under-par 71, while Talia Nel and Kelly Erasmus signed off on even-par 72s to tie for eighth.
Verwey alternated pars with birdies at the third, fourth, eighth and 10th until disaster struck at the par-three 13th.
“I still can’t manage to find a round without a bogey,” she mused immediately afterwards.
The country’s number two ranked player had 130 meters to the green, but her tee shot flew the green. “I got caught the bunker behind green and was left with very little green to work with,” she said.
“I hit the trap shot a little too thin and it caught the slope of the green and rolled into the other greenside bunker. At least it was a great bunker-to-bunker bogey; it could have been a lot worse.”
She wiped out the drop with back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th.
“Overall, I wasn’t hitting the ball that well today,” she said, adding that the key was that she didn’t miss too many greens and the putter was red-hot. “My best previous finish in the championship was seventh and the game plan this week is to better that.
“Of course I would love to win this, but I’m not thinking any further than a six place finish or better.”
Smooth-swinging Williams looked as impressive as she navigated the front nine in 34. She picked up her third birdie at the par-four 10th to get within a shot of Verwey, but also fell victim of the 13th hole.
“I miscalculated the distance and I flew the green and the bunker behind it,” the 24-year-old from Gauteng North explained. “It was a good drop by my standards, but I just seemed to lose the momentum after that.”
Williams birdied the 16th but three-putted 18 for another bogey.
“The 16th is a relatively short par-five, so you really have to birdie,” she said. “I was annoyed with myself for three-putting the 18th. Right now I just feel I should have done better, but I’m just three shots down and still in it. I just need to putter to behave tomorrow.”
Strauss looked right at home at her home course.
“It’s taken me a while to get back into competitive golf, but I felt comfortable today,” said Strauss, who dropped her only shot of the day at the 10th.
The 18-year-old from Koster quit the game after reaching the number one spot in South Africa in 2009. She took a year-long sabbatical to focus on her studies and secured a golf scholarship to the University of Texas and will leave for the United States in August.
“I’ve always wanted to win this tournament, so it’s great that I’ll have one more chance to compete,” she said. “I just have to make it count this week.”
And Smit, who was out of the game with injury, was just delighted to be in contention again.
“It’s great just to play again and to compete,” she said. “I don’t have high expectations; I just hope to challenge and finish within top 10 this week.”
Erasmus was in contention at two under, but nerves got the better of her down the home straight. The teenager three-putted the eighth and fell foul of the fairway bunker at the ninth.
“I tried not to think about my score, but I realised I’m in contention and I guess I let my concentration slip towards the end,” said the 15-year-old from Durbanville. “But I had to play the course blind, so if someone gave me a 70 this morning, I would have taken it.”
And golf prodigy Woo Ju Son made her mark when she outplayed the 40-somethings in the 10-18 Handicap B-Section.
Son, a 10-year-old from Johannesburg, is the youngest player entered into this year’s event. The 10-handicapper carded an opening 85 to finish two shots clear of Valda Ford and three ahead of Namibian Wilna Bredenhann.
ROUND ONE LEADING SCORES
67 Iliska Verwey
70 Kim Williams; Bertine Strauss; Monique Smit; Nicole Becker
71 Lejan Lewthwaite; Henrietta Frylinck
72 Talia Nel; Kelly Erasmus
73 Alana van Greuning; Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ)
74 Izel Pieters
75 Bianca Theron
76 Vanessa Smith; Yvette du Plessis; Kippie Zayb; Carrie Park
77 Emma du Bruyn; Bonita Bredenhann (NAM); Lara Weinstein; Natasha Carlsson; Tiffany Avern-Taplin