High praise for WGSA at Sanlam Women’s SA Amateur

Report from Lali Stander

RUSTENBURG, North West (13 April 2011) – Bhavi Shah of Kenya and Angel Eaton from Tanzania heaped high praise on Women’s Golf South Africa for giving seven players from various African countries the opportunity to tee it up in this year’s Sanlam Women’s SA Amateur at Rustenburg Golf Club. Pictured here are Jasper Kamukama, Flavia Namakula, Loice Chingono and Nabuhle Dlamini.

“It was really an honour for us to be invited,” said Shah.

“The only way we can raise our games and improve is by getting into a competitive playing field like this. To be able to tee it up in the most prestigious tournament on the women’s amateur calendar the South Africa is such a privilege.”

Although the WGSA invited players from nine African countries, only seven players accepted.

Shah and Eaton were joined by Nobuhle Dlamini of Swaziland, Zimbabwe’s Claire Minter and Loice Chingono, and Uganda players Flavia Namakula and Jasper Kamukama.

Shah said that the WGSA did not just invite the players to compete, but also assisted them financially.

“They really support our development,” Shah said. “Playing here is yet another opportunity for us to gain experience and improve.”

Eaton, a scratch handicapper, added that most players from the African nations yearn for the chance to play in South Africa.

“You see, the standard of golf in South Africa is much higher than in the rest of Africa,” she explained. “There are more golf courses here, more opportunities to learn and more competitions. It is really beneficial for us to come and play here.

“Our golf unions don’t offer us the opportunities to play abroad; sponsorship is almost non-existent. This is the closest we can get to international competition and gaining experience.”

Shah, who completed a Bachelors degree in Science, Mathematics and Finance at City University of London, has been based in South Africa since the end of last year. She and Eaton share accommodation in Pretoria. Both players are members of Silver Lakes Country Club and are working full time on preparing for the transition to the professional circuit.

“We really enjoy competing on the women’s amateur circuit,” said Shah.

“Since I’ve been here full-time, my handicap has dropped to scratch. The biggest benefit of competing in the Sanlam Women’s SA Amateur is that you can measure yourself against the best in the country and you gain experience in tournament play.

“My coach told me recently that I’m ready to turn pro. You come here and you see that you’re not.”

Dlamini, the 2009 Match Play champion, agreed.

“Whenever I get a chance like this, I grab it with both hands,” said Dlamini, a student at the University of Pretoria and a member of Pretoria Country Club, tied for fourth in the Stroke Play Championship. “I’m a good match play competitor, but I don’t do well in Stroke Play competitions,” she said.

“The WGSA gave me a chance to play in the Sanlam Women’s SA Amateur and I was really excited to see how much I’ve improved. I tied for fourth, but I could have won. I realised that I tend to carry the bad shots to the next holes and that cost me the win.”

Outgoing president Erica Lefson said that the WGSA believes it has a duty to help grow the game in Africa.

“We care about golf both in South Africa and outside our borders,” she said.

“In the last two years we have identified young talent from outside out borders and invited these players in the hope of giving them experience and improving there golf. We included three of these girls in an Invitational Team at the WGSA 72-Hole Championship last year and, at our first meeting this year, we decided to invite nine players to participate and cover their costs in terms of transport, meals, accommodation and playing fees.

“We believe that our role is to share and help with the growth of golf in Africa.”

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