Dlamini takes SA Matchplay honours at Royal Cape
The 17-year-old from Swaziland, who came through the strokeplay qualifying stage virtually unnoticed, rewrote the history books when she became the first black golfer to capture the prestigious title in the 103-year history of the women’s amateur circuit’s flagship event.
It proved a memorable five days for Dlamini, coming to a peak with an outstanding, against-the-odds triumph in the matchplay final.
Orton had birdied six holes in a row against semi-final opponent Tiffany Avern-Taplin to book her place in the final, but stumbled out of the blocks to give the Swazi girl wonder the upper hand early on.
Dlamini took control of the match at the second hole and amplified the gap to six shots after the first 18 holes and seemed to have run out of answers.
But after 23 holes, the teenager’s wheels started coming off. She squandered her six shot advantage, letting Orton in the door at the sixth, eighth, 10th, 13th and 15th.
“I got really, really nervous,” admitted Dlamini. “I played rubbish; I just handed her hole after hole and it felt like I’d lost all control.
“I had a real good talk to myself after the 15th. Lumien was playing very well; she was very solid off the tee and in the fairways. She wasn’t really making putts for birdies and I knew I had to make pars, because the next bogey would cost me the championship.”
Wayward tee shots off both the 17th and 18th tees saw Dlamini scramble hard to square both holes, and force the match into extra time and the pair walked back to the first.
Dlamini hit a perfect tee shot and had 88 meters to the pin, while Orton’s tee shot veered right and just off the fairway.
“I pushed my sandwedge just slightly and my ball pitched on the green but spun back to about 20 meters,” explained the new champion. “Lumien hit a good approach, but it fell just short of the green. Her chip shot ran past the hole and she left her putt short.
“I knew I had two putts to win and my hands shook like crazy. I left the first putt half-a-meter short, but when I took the putter for the second time I was ready.”
She certainly looked relaxed as she collected the silverware and shared a big smile with an appreciative crowd and her Summit College teacher and mentor, Des Bellingan.
“All my matches were really tough, much tougher than I ever expected. I had some confidence coming here after I won the Glendower Club Championship in March but this was my first big tournament, the first time that I played in this event.
“This is really a big deal for me. I can’t wait to hear what my dad says – he will be so proud.”
In the four matches leading up to the final, Dlamini proved a force to be reckoned with as the outgunned some of the top amateurs on the circuit.
Having despatched Pam Hayward at the 19th in the first round, she faced Pretoria’s Kim Williams, the country’s number two-ranked player. Dlamini never trailed in beating Williams 7 & 6 to set up a quarterfinal against Michelle Leigh from Gauteng.
She took care of Leigh with a 6 & 5 win, but it wasn’t until she beat five-time winner Gilly Tebbutt at the 18th hole in the semi-final, that anyone really took notice.
Considering the strength of the field, this has been the greatest achievement in the young player’s career. The standout feature of her game was not her accuracy off the tee and her prowess on the greens, but her presence of mind and her never say die attitude.
Dlamini called the experienced Tebbut a little dog at the heels that just wouldn’t go away, but final match tenacity showed that that she is no poodle, either.