Nicole Garcia returns to South Africa this week fresh from a solid result in Saudi Arabia to tee it up in the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Jabra Ladies Classic, which gets underway on Wednesday at Glendower Golf Club.
It’s the fifth edition of the popular tournament, and it presents an intriguing challenge on one of the best championship layouts in South Africa.
And just in case the R1-million prize fund is not enough, the winner of the Jabra Ladies Classic receives an invitation to compete in the Jabra Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour.
“I played well enough for my 24th place in a good field,” said Garcia, “but Glendower presents a very different challenge to the course in Saudi. My short game was solid, but not so much off the tee. The fairways were wide over there, and Glendower is going to demand more precision. I’m going to work on that ahead of the tournament.”
Garcia is joined in the field by two other players fresh from the Ladies European Tour tournament in Saudi Arabia, Lee-Anne Pace and Casandra Alexander.
Pace, the reigning Investec South African Women’s Open champion, was the top South African finisher in the field last week. She also finished in a share of fourth in the Jabra Ladies Classic last year behind the winner Linn Grant of Sweden, who went on to have a dominating year on the Ladies European Tour after dominating in her rookie season on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Alexander, who tied for fourth with Pace at Glendower last year, won the opening tournament on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this year when she took the SuperSport Ladies Challenge at Gary Player Country Club in Sun City at the beginning of February.
While she missed the cut in Saudi Arabia, Alexander had a share of 13th the week before on the Ladies European Tour in Morocco as she continued her good form from her victory.
Garcia was 19th in last year’s Jabra Ladies Classic, but she was a runner-up in 2021 and knows what the former SA Open venue demands. And, with her Ladies European Tour experience, she knows the value of a good performance at Glendower – in fact, in any of the Sunshine Ladies Tour events.
“It’s a great incentive for those players who play on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and won’t ordinarily get in to the Jabra Ladies Open,” said Garcia. “In fact, getting a good start in South Africa is good for anyone, and some good results on this tour will set me up nicely for a stress-free year in Europe.”
Local rookie Kiera Floyd is certainly one player who would benefit from a win at Glendower.
A former Ekurhuleni Women’s Open winner at the championship layout, she finished third as a 14-year-old inexperienced amateur in the inaugural event in 2019, and the 19-year-old is coming into this year’s tournament wiser, more mature and in form after finishing an impressive second in last week’s Cape Town Ladies Open in challenging conditions at Atlantic Beach Links.
Besides the South African players looking to grasp the opportunity offered at home, there are players from 27 other countries in the field of 112 players.
Notable amongst those, based on her performances in the first three tournaments and her lead on the Order of Merit, Lily May Humphreys of England. With finishes of third, fourth and eighth, she has been contending week-in and week-out and will surely put it all together soon.
Also from England, last week’s winner Hayley Davis showed great grit through windy conditions in Cape Town and will feel that playing on the highveld is a breeze after claiming a three-shot victory.