By Lali Stander
Monique Smit ended a two-year title drought on the Sunshine Ladies Tour with a brilliant trap-shot and a tap-in birdie to defeat Ashleigh Simon at the first play-off hole for the Ladies Tshwane Open title on Thursday.
“I don’t think anyone can appreciate just how happy I am at this moment that I’ve thrown the monkey off my back,” the delighted Southern Cape player gushed. “This is one of the happiest moments of my life. It’s even more special to win this title after the City of Tshwane spoiled us so brilliantly with the two-day outing before the tournament. I feel privileged to be the City of Tshwane’s champion and I salute them for supporting the the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Simon had a one shot lead over Smit at the start of the final round, but the pair ended regulation play in a tie at nine-under-par 207 following respective rounds of 69 and 68. After Simon bogeyed the opening hole, Smit took the lead with back-to-back birdies at three and four, but Simon shortened the gap with a birdie at seven.
Smit birdied nine to pull two shots clear, but misjudged the distance at 10, flew the green and dropped a shot and Simon rallied with birdies at 10, 11 and 13 to surge two strokes clear.
“I just stayed patient and tried to give myself chances,” Smit said. “When Ash bogeyed 15, I knew I had to take advantage at the par five 16th. I hit three-wood off the deck and three-wood for my second I had 25 meters to the flag and I chipped to a foot and made the putt.
“We were tied at nine under playing 17 and the tee shot at 17 was absolutely nerve-wracking. I felt so close to the win, but I was still so far.”
The Fancourt player got her nerves under control and matched Simon’s par at the short hole, but after both players missed their birdie chances at the final hole to close out a victory, that’s when Smit came up with a winning strategy for the play-off on the return trip to the tee at the par-five 18th.
“I hit my second in the right greenside bunker in regulation play and Ashleigh was in the left one, but we both missed out chances,” Smit said. “Trap shots are my bread and butter, so I aimed straight for that left bunker. I knew I could get it close for another birdie chance.”
Smit hit the bunker shot to perfection, leaving herself a foot-long putt for birdie and tidied up for the victory when Simon missed her 12-foot birdie effort.
“I had a negative attitude on the greens at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies last week, so I worked really hard at staying positive with the putter this week,” said Smit. “Ash did unbelievably well to put pressure on me the whole day and I had to work to catch her in the end. All in all, I’m happy that I got the job is done. It doesn’t matter how many holes it took.”
Smit won the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am and SuperSport Ladies Challenge in the 2014 and is targeting in another victory before the season finale Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
“I’m hell-bent on winning another one to keep myself in the top 10 so I can challenge for the R1-million bonus at Millvale Private Retreat in March,” she said. “I didn’t play the Cape Town Ladies Open last year, so I am very excited to get to Royal Cape next week and it’s going to be great to challenge in the Dimension Data Pro-Am in George with this form.”
Meanwhile South Africa’s number two ranked amateur Ivanna Samu continues to impress. The GFG Academy player carded rounds of 72, 71 and 73 to win the Leading Amateur award for a fourth consecutive time with a seventh place finish on even-par 216
All players RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as (AMA).
204 – Monique Smit 69 67 68 (1st hole play-off)
204 – Ashleigh Simon 69 66 69
209 – Rebecca Hudson ENG 74 68 67
215 – Melissa Eaton 74 71 70, Stacy Bregman 70 74 71, Laurette Maritz 74 70 71
216 – Ivanna Samu (AMA) 72 71 73
217 – Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ 68 79 70, Alexandra Lennartsson SWE 75 70 72