Just a fortnight after her first national breakthrough in the Nomads SA Girls Championship on home soil, 16-year-old Johannesburg golfer Gia Raad celebrated her first international triumph in the 2023 English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
The GolfRSA National Squad member fired two eagles on her way to a final round 68 at The Caversham Golf Club to triumph with a staggering five shot victory on 12-under-par 276.
The Country Club Johannesburg golfer opened with a tidy 71, but a second round 66 that featured eight birdies catapulted her to pole position on seven-under. She began the final round four shots clear of England’s Mia Ingham and five ahead of Ingham’s compatriot Lili-Rose Hunt.
Battling a balky putter, Raad carded 71 in the third round, and surrendered the lead to Hunt, who returned a 66, but the South African teenager kept a cool head under pressure in the final round to punch her way back into contention.
Over the first nine holes, the lead shifted back and forth between Raad and Hunt, but after the turn, the South African teenager produced a pair of eagles on the par five 11th and 14th holes to edge two shots clear with four holes to play. Despite dropping a shot at the 16th, her lead was never threatened over the closing holes. Hunt, playing in the group ahead, finished with a double bogey, leaving Raad to wrap up the victory and she signed up with flourish, making birdie on the last.
‘It feels amazing to come away with the victory, especially when I’ve travelled all of this way to compete,” said Raad. “It’s really nice to have a South African flag flying here in England, because it means a lot to me to be able to represent my country in such a prestigious event.”
Raad struggled on the greens during the 36-hole final day, but the crucial putts found their targets on the back nine.
“That first eagle was a long putt, so I gave it a little extra and when it dropped, it gave me hope. I was one shot behind at that stage. The second eagle putt was quite short, in the range I’d been missing all day, so I got quite excited when that one found the hole.
‘During the last three or four holes, I have to admit I was shaking! Lili-Rose was playing really well. She had shot six under in the morning. I knew I had to try and catch up, but I also kept playing my own game. I tried to stay calm and hit as many fairways and greens as possible, and when the putt dropped on 18, I was so excited. It didn’t feel real!”
Raad, who tied for eighth in the English Girls’ U-16 and U-14 Open Stroke Play Championship at Shifnal Golf Club a week later, will also be competing in the prestigious R&A Girls’ Amateur Championship from 15-20 August in Yorkshire, England this August.