All eyes will be on Womens Golf South Africa’s number one ranked junior Woo-Ju Son and number two Kajal Mistry, who will spearhead the challenge in this year’s Nomads SA Girls Championship at Orkney Golf Club from 2-4 July.
The pair have been going toe-to-toe for the last 18 months but earlier this month, Son overhauled the reigning Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play champion for the top spot in the junior standings with her seventh visit to the winner’s circle this season.
Son kicked off the year with back-to-back success in the season-opening Boland Junior and Nomads Western Province Junior Championships in January. The petite Gauteng golfer was in a class of her own at the SA Women’s Open in February, where she won the Amateur title, outperforming more than half of the professional competitors at San Lameer Country Club with a top 10 finish.
After successfully defending her title in the Curro SA Juniors International in March, Son followed a third place finish in the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play with victory in the Free State Championship in May and consecutive titles in the Limpopo Championship in June.
Her victory at Clarens Golf Club in May might even be a good omen for Son.
In 2010, European Ladies Tour winner Connie Chen claimed the Nomads SA Girls Championship title on the back of a Free State Championship win, and LPGA Tour campaigner Bertine Strauss also won both events.
Yet, despite coming off back-to-back victories, the 16-year-old Country Club Johannesburg golfer insists she is not the favourite to win this week. While Son is determined to hang on to her number one spot, she believes she will have a tough job on her hands with the likes of Mistry, defending champion Danielle du Toit and other challengers including Kaiyuree Moodley, Chiara Contomathios, Symone Henriques and Ekurhuleni duo Caitlyn Macnab and Kiera Floyd in the mix.
“I am playing well but Kajal, coming off a top 10 finish in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan, is the in-form player,” said Son.
“Symone just had a huge learning curve in the World Cup and will be hungry for her first win this season. Kaiyuree played really well in tough conditions to win the Nomads SA Girls Rose Bowl Championship and she will be gunning for the double.
"Chiara won in KwaZulu-Natal and Caitlyn led the Curro SA Juniors International for three rounds. It even took me two holes to beat her in the play-off. Danielle is always dangerous and Kiera is the dark horse. Danielle is playing less events this season due to matric, but she’s won twice and she will take her title defence very seriously.
"Kiera is just 12, but she had close calls in Boland, at the Gauteng North Junior Girls Open and the Rose Bowl. She has already broken into the top 10 in the junior rankings and I think a first win is close for Kiera.
“I am feeling positive, but this is a new week with new greens, different weather and lots of players with the potential to win. Besides, golf is played on grass, not paper. I think this year’s championship is wide open and the player who keeps it in play and brings a hot putter will take the crown.”
Womens Golf South Africa president Sally Greasley confirmed a field of 104 players from across all provinces for the 2017 Nomads SA Girls Championship, as well as 14-year-old Emily Jones from Zimbabwe, who recently won the Lesotho Ladies Open and the Zambian Ladies Open.
“We are delighted that Danielle Bekker’s parents sponsored Emily to come and compete in South Africa, because it will benefit both Emily and our local players,” said Greasley.
“We certainly have a very strong line-up this year with seven of our top 10 juniors challenging in the championship division and we expect another nail-biting finish that will go down to the wire.
“In addition, our title sponsor Nomads has given us tremendous financial support for this event, which has enabled us to bring many of our rising stars across South Africa to Orkney to compete against their peers and gain experience at a top national championship.
“The Nomads SA Girls Championship is always a fabulous week where we are treated to great golf from our top players and we get to watch the emerging talent in action. With Elru Botha and the ladies from North West Womens Golf looking after us, we are looking forward to another fantastic edition of this prestigious national championship.”
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company.
PHOTO CREDIT Les Rule Ladies Golf Gauteng