British golfer Kiran Matharu once again demonstrated some fine form on the Sunshine Ladies Tour to finish the weather-affected first day of the Ladies Tshwane Open at the top of the pile at Zwartkop Country Club.
The Hennops River broke its banks on Monday night after a heavy deluge and caused some major damage, especially over the first nine holes. The opening round had to be delayed by two hours as greens-staff cleaned greens, drained bunkers and repaired damage, but the interruption did little to upset Matharu.
She fired a three-under-par 69 to head up a congested international leaderboard that features – among others – SA Women’s Masters champion Carrie Park, SA Women’s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace, twins sisters Hanna and Maria Roos from Sweden, Hannah Arnold from the United States and former Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Rebecca Hudson.
Matharu has been in threatening form since her first appearance at the season-opening SuperSport Ladies Challenge.
The 27-year-old from Leeds followed a third place finish at Huddle Park in early January with a tie for second at Rondebosch and a top five finish at San Lameer to move to second in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
She started the R400 000 event in Tshwane just 61 points behind Park from South Korea.
Matharu made four straight pars to get her campaign going, but a string of birdies from the 14th too her to the top of the pile. Another eight straight pars kept the Englishwoman in the lead at four under, but she dropped a shot when she bogeyed her final hole.
‘I battled with the driver, but I was able to hit it close on the front nine and all my birdie putts were pretty short,’ said Matharu. ‘I had some chances on the back nine, but I didn’t convert and it was a little disappointing to finish with the bogey. Still, I’ve put myself in contention again. I would like to win at least once, but I try not to think about prize money and points out there. I just take it shot for shot and see where that takes me.
‘The staff did an amazing job with the course, considering the condition it was in when we arrived this morning. There are a couple of bad patches, but the course played really well and the greens were good, too. If the rain stays away, it’s going to turn into a real fight for the title.
‘There are a lot of birdies out there if you are hitting it straight, so I’m heading to the driving range now. I’ve been working on my swing, so it’s a work in progress, but I’m pleased with the results I’m starting to see.’
With 520 points on offer to the 2017 champion, Matharu is bound to come under pressure.
Park mixed three bogeys with four birdies to tie for second with three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Monique Smit, who pencilled a trio of birdies on her card.
Pace was three under through 12 holes but an untimely double bogey at the fifth and a bogey at seven saw her slip into a tie for fourth at even-par with Hanna Roos and South Africans Monja Richards and Ivanna Samu.
‘I was going along nicely, but I went for the wrong club at the fifth and ended up in the water and that interrupted my focus a little,” said Pace. “It’s pretty tight at the top, so I am pleased to be within three shots of Kiran with two rounds to play.’
By Lali Stander
First Round Scores
68 – Kiran Matharu (ENG)
70 – Carrie Park (KOR), Monique Smit
71 – Monja Richards, Ivanna Samu, Hanna Roos (SWE), Lee-Anne Pace
72 – Tandi von Ruben, Maria Roos (SWE), Kim Williams