Winning the Women’s Australian Open again was a nice full stop to my year.
Playing on two golf courses makes it a long week because you’ve got to get practice rounds in on both courses. They are both very good and quite different to each other. We only played one round on The Lakes Course and The Australian is probably one of the top-10 courses I’ve played in my career. It was in immaculate condition with slick greens.
So, playing on two courses was tiring, but overall it is a really good tournament and the crowds are phenomenal. They were mostly there to watch the big Aussie players like Minjee Lee but we get to be on the backend of it so I don’t really care. I don’t think I’ve played in front of that many people before. This year they reckon there were about 20,000 people on the final day. That’s what you play for.
I’ve been coming to Australia to play since I was 13. Dale Hayes used to send two kids over to the Jack Newton International Junior Classic every year, so he sent me over for four years. I love playing in Australia and I think I’ve got a connection with the country because I started coming here so young.
I’ve made a lot of friends throughout the years because of that tournament and then on Tour. Some of my best mates are also Aussies and I’ve got family here; for the week of the tournament I stayed with my sister-in-law who lives in Sydney. I was lucky because there were a lot of South Africans in the crowd; they were shouting, ‘Go Bokke!’ The support I have is the closest I get to playing at home, which is another reason I love playing here.
The windy conditions on the final day were tough. I didn’t make a birdie on the Sunday but I said to my caddie: ‘We must just play our game, stick to playing the spaces we’re comfortable at and don’t push,’ because when you push you make mistakes. Although Minjee started to make a charge, I didn’t panic. I just stuck to doing my steps and processes, which is what I do every time I’m in contention.
On the 18th we had to lay up; I could have got there but it was just too risky. My driver and my wedge game are my strong points. We were between yardages; I had to hit a 75m shot which is a little sand-wedge and obviously in the pressure you prefer to hit something full. Once Minjee had hit it long over the flag I asked my caddie, ‘What’s my minimum, can I get the other one there?’ And she made a great call, she said, ‘Let’s favour a little left of the flag, hit the other one with a bit extra and let the wind be your friend.’ It’s all I needed for that extra confidence.
I still got a great reception when I won. There is a sports rivalry with the Aussies but out of competition we all get on.
I played with David Warner in the pro-am and I spoke to him about the rivalry, and he said he gets on so well with the South Africans off the field, even after ‘sandpaper-gate’. He’s not the most liked person in SA but, honestly, he was such a nice guy and is golf-mad.
– This column first appeared in the January 2024 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine.
Photo: Andy Cheung/Getty Images