GEORGE, 21 February 2014 – South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon has targetted a South African triple at the Dimension Data Pro-Am in George, after Kim Williams and Tandi von Ruben lifted the titles in the first two events of the new Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Williams won on pro debut at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton, and Von Ruben defeated amateur Magda Kruger in a play-off to capture her fourth pro title at the Sun International Challenge at Lost City.
Simon is hopeful that she, or one of the other South Africans in the line-up will triumph against a strong international presence in the R150,000 event that tees off at Oubaai Golf Club on Saturday, 22 February. “There are 10 players from nine countries outside South Africa in the field, and with the increased prize money, I expect them to really challenge this weekend,” Simon said. “The winner will get a significant boost on the order of merit, so it will be a battle out there.”
Fellow Ladies European Tour campaigner Lee-Anne Pace, recent champions Williams and Von Ruben, and LET players Monique Smit and Morgana Robbertze will strengthen the local challenge, while two-time Ladies European Tour champion Anne-Lise Caudal, Lauren Blease and Rachel Drummond from England, Swaziland’s Nobuhle Dlamini and Maggie Yuan from Australia are among the international entries bidding for victory.
“Lee-Anne and I heard only good things about the Sunshine Ladies Tour while we were competing in Australia and it was quite exciting to follow it all on Facebook and the official websites,” Simon said. “We are very pleased to be teeing it up and showing our support for the new Tour.”
Simon had her first look at the Ernie Els designed course at Oubaai on Friday and was excited by the layout and conditioning. “I’ve never played the Oubaai course before and I was really impressed,” she said. “The course is absolutely magnificent; the fairways are generous, but tricky and the greens roll fast and true. “I practiced at Outeniqua on Thursday, which I last played when I was about 13. It’s also a great layout with a lot of challenges, but I found the greens a little slow. I’m sure they will speed up towards Sunday’s final round, though.”
Like Pace, the two-time LET winner is also relishing the opportunity to compete on home soil. “I don’t think people realise how much we love coming home to compete in front of a home crowd,” she said. “We are away for most of the season and we compete in front of strangers all the time, so to finally have some tournaments at home is wonderful. Lee-Anne and I won’t be able to play the whole Tour, but we couldn’t turn down the chance to play at home.”
Simon expects the local players to feature at Fancourt. “The local professionals like Monique Smit and Nicole Loesch are going to be tough to beat here at home,” she said, “and amateurs like Sonja Bland and Desiree Geldenhuys are very experienced and they know the courses and conditions well. But I’m relishing the challenge. I managed to get some of the rust off in Australia, and although I am still tinkering with a few things, I feel like my game is coming along nicely. I’m not going to get over-confident, but I would love to win at least one event on the new Sunshine Ladies Tour. But, if doesn’t happen this week, I’ll just have to try harder at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower next week.”