Cara Gorlei laid last year’s ghost to rest when she defeated fellow USA collegiate golfer Jessica Dreesbeimdieke for the Sanlam South African Women’s Amateur Championship title at Stellenbosch Golf Club on Wednesday.
Just 12 months after the 21-year-old from Milnerton squandered the lead and lost the title to Lumien Orton, Gorlei rolled in a three foot birdie putt at the last hole to beat the lanky Namibian 1-up.
“To hold this trophy has been a goal for so many years; this is really a dream come true,” said Gorlei.
“I started playing golf 10 years ago and played in my first SA Women’s Amateur Championship at Rustenburg Golf Club in 2011. I played every division and this was the one trophy I desperately wanted to win. It’s taken me four years and it’s a huge relief to get it done.
“I played quite a few tournaments during my summer break last year, but this year, I only practiced and prepared for this week. It’s a great feeling to go back to the University of Arkansas with this huge win under the belt.”
Last year Gorlei led the final, but lost it down the back nine and at one point in the final round, she had a strong sense of de ja vu.
“It was a tough final, because Jessica never let up,” said Gorlei. “When I went from 4-up to 2-down, I thought here we go again, but I pulled it through and I’m absolutely over the moon. On behalf of all the amateurs, but especially the young girls, I want to thank Sanlam and Gary van Loggerenberg for supporting women’s amateur golf in such a big way.
“Sanlam has been the driving force behind both our flagship events for 12 years, and it’s thanks to their support that I gained the experience that brought me to the winner’s circle this year.”
Gorlei put the championship field on notice when she won the seeding round on a count out, and after a first round bye, the former GolfRSA Elite Squad player fired the first warning shot with a crushing 6 & 4 win against Elsune Roode from KwaZulu-Natal.
She dispatched Larissa du Preez from Gauteng North 4 & 3 in round three, and routed local favourite Crystal Beukes at the 19th hole at her home course to make the semi-finals. She eliminated reigning University Sport South Africa champion Sarah Bouch from Ekurhuleni 2-up to another stab at glory.
Meanwhile Dreesbeimdieke downed Lizzie Currie from KwaZulu-Natal 5 & 4 in round two, Gauteng’s Chiara Contomathios 3 & 1 in the third round and Danielle du Toit from Gauteng North 2 & 1 before she faced South Africa’s third ranked Zethu Myeki for a spot in the final.
Myeki stumbled out of the blocks with a double bogey start and handed the lead to the University of Denver student. Dreesbeimdieke was relentless and had a 4-up through seven. Myeki won the eighth hole with a birdie, but the Namibian parred 15hole to win 4 & 3.
Both finalists bogeyed the opening hole in the final, but Gorlei drew first blood with a birdie at the second and moved 2-up with another gain at the fourth.
“I had about 50 yards in and pitched it a foot from the hole and made the putt at two and at four, I hit a good drive, and a good second to four feet and holed it,” said Gorlei. “I went 4-up after Jessica dropped six and seven. She birdied eighth to win the hole and I dropped the ninth when I overcooked my tee shot and flew the green.
“I was 2-up at the turn, but Jessica birded 10 and I bogeyed 11. She won five successive holes and just like that, the match was squared. When she birdied 12, she took the lead for the first time and she was 2-up after I dropped a shot at 15.”
But unlike last year at Ebotse, the Western Province player rallied with a birdie at 16 to cut the deficit to one and the pair were back to square when Dreesbeimdieke bogeyed 17.
“The birdie at 16 was definitely the gear-changer,” said Gorlei. “I had just missed a three-footer for par at 15 and I was fuming and suddenly I was 2-down with three to play. We both hit our tee shots left at 16. I was behind trees, but Jessica had an open shot to the green.
“She hit her second pin high left just off the green. I had to punch out low and the ball finished about 30 feet short of the green. I holed the chip shot, though, and the birdie gave me back the advantage and I could put pressure on her.”
Dreesbeimdieke narrowly missed a par putt at 17 and the pair headed to 18 all square.
“We both pumped our drives down the middle of the fairway,” said Gorlei. “Jessica’s second landed about 30 feet from the pin, which was tucked just next to the water. I hit my approach and I thought I had pulled it. I turned away because I didn’t want to see the splash and I heard someone say it’s in the hole. It pitched right on the hole and spun to three feet. After Jessica missed her birdie try, I just had to roll it in for the win. The relief when that putt dropped was indescribable.”
Myeki defeated fellow GolfRSA National Squad player Bouch 3 & 2 for third place, while Cleo Jordaan from Gauteng North downed Lynn Behagg from Boland 2 & 1 to win the Plate Division. Aaliyah Abrahams from Rondebosch Golf Club and Jessica Green from Clovelly from the Womens Golf Western Province HPC Coaching Programme went toe-to-toe in the third place play-off, with Abrahams the victor after she triumphed at the 19th hole.
Championship Division Final
Cara Gorlei beat Jessica Dreesbeimdieke (NAM) 1-up
Championship Division Third Place Play-off
Zethu Myeki beat Sarah Bouch 3 & 2
Plate Division Final
Lynne Behagg beat Cleo Jordaan 2 & 1
Plate Division Third Place Play-off
Aaliyah Abrahams beat Jessica Green at 19th hole
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company.