Dlamini hits the front at Sanlam Women’s Stroke Play

Lali Stander reports

UMHLALI (15 April 2012) – The good news just keeps on coming for Swaziland’s Nobuhle Dlamini, who took the first round lead in the Sanlam Women’s Amateur SA Stroke Play Championship at Umhlali Country Club on Sunday.

Already a four-time winner this season, Dlamini carded a one-under-par 70 for a two stroke lead on a day that started with glorious sunshine, but then saw the Dolphin Coast become progressively grumpy as a stiff South-Easterly wind moved in.

It certainly got the better of two-time defending champion Kim Williams and the country’s number two ranked player, Alana van Greuning, who both opened with seven over 78s.

And Dlamini is not too worried about unheralded Pietermaritzburg teenager Michaela Fletcher alone in second on 73 or the trio on 74, including Gauteng golfers Michelle Leigh and Francesca Cuturi and Ekurhuleni’s Simone Burger.

Only one player broke par on the first day and she was happy to be in charge.

“I’ll take this with open arms,” said the 20-year-old. “It was very difficult out there. The wind was gusting and swirling and it was difficult to choose clubs. Then I went and cost myself four shots on the back nine where I lost focus. It could have been better, but I think 70 on this course and in this wind is a fair result. I’m happy to have my nose in front.”

Dlamini looked formidable over the first 10 holes, diving to three under and holding a five shot lead. But back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12 and a double bogey at the par-five 13th got her attention. “I hit a poor tee shot and was almost dead in the trees,” she explained.

“I tried to punch it out and the ball hit the smallest tree on the hole, ricochet backwards and landed in a banana tree. From there I chipped out, hit a three-wood shot, chipped up and two-putted. I knew then that I’d lost focus. But a drink and a Bar One sorted me out.”
Head cleared, Dlamini birdied 14, 15 and 17 to pull away from her challengers.

“I bogeyed the 18th, which was unfortunate, but it was playing very difficult with the wind at its strongest and coming off the side. But like I said, I’ll take 70 and a two shot lead any day.”

Dlamini, who hails from Lobamba, is currently completing her second academic year in her BSportScience degree at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria. She won the 2009 Sanlam SA Amateur Match Play in 2009 and was a finalist in the Match Play last year, but her best result in the Stroke Play was a tie for fourth last year.

“I made it my goal this year to go for the Sanlam SA Amateur double,” said Dlamini, who already collected silverware for the Eastern Cape double, the North West Stroke Play and KwaZulu-Natal Match Play this year.

Fletcher could have been even closer to Dlamini, were it not for a penalty the 15-year-old incurred for not adhering to the tournament local rules.

“I took a free drop from a cart path, but it’s not allowed in the local rules this week,” said Fletcher. “A stupid mistake to make but I’ll make up that shot somewhere in the next two days.”

The teenager, who recently lost a Glacier Junior Series event at Umhlali by a single stroke, is known for her solid iron play and could pose a threat is she keeps her putter going.

“I’ve had some good results this season, but the putter didn’t always behave,” she said. “Today both the irons and the putter worked together. I never had anything longer than 12 foot and the putts finally started to drop today. I just hope I can keep the streak going.”

Rising junior Lara Weinstein from Bedfordview is also within striking distance. Already a multiple winner this season, the 17-year-old was two over par, but a double bogey at the last hole saw her slip to a tie for sixth on four over 75.

The juniors also impressed in the B-division, where 12-year-old Mount Edgecombe golfer Brittney-Fay Berger carded a 14-over-par 85 to take a one shot lead over fellow KwaZulu-Natal golfer Wendy Frost and last year’s B-Division runner up, Namibia’s Wilna Bredenhahn.

Herewith the leading scores for the A- and B-Division after the first round of the Sanlam Women’s SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship at the par-71 Umhlali Country Club on Sunday, 15 April 2012.

A Division:

70 Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ)

73 Michaela Fletcher

74 Simone Burger; Francesca Cuturi; Michelle Leigh

75 Izel Pieters; Bianca Theron, Lara Weinstein

76 Amy Henning; Michelle Bissett; Carla Bella Gorlei; Elzanne Kent; Eugenie Clack; Nicole Loesch

B Division:

85 Brittney- Fay Berger

86 Wendy Frost; Wilna Bredenhahn (NAM)

87 Jhanelle Strydom; Kim de Klerk

88 Natalie Singer

89 Chiara Contomathios

90 Lydia Muhl, Joan Solms

91 Jean Whitfield

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