13 January 2022 – Samantha Whateley trended towards a third provincial win throughout 2021 and the moment finally arrived when she defended her KZNLGA Nomads Junior Girls Championship title in December.
Not only did her staggering 12-shot victory in the season-ending event at Umhlali Country Club cap a brilliant season for the GolfRSA National Squad member, but the win cemented the 17-year-old Country Club Johannesburg golfer’s position at the top of the GolfRSA Junior Rankings.
Sam not only excelled on the junior circuit last year, but she also rose to third in the Open Amateur Rankings on the back some strong performances, including four top three finishes. In fact, the Gauteng junior didn’t place outside the top 10 once in 2021.
Sam will be flying the flag for South Africa for a second time when she tees it up in the 14th Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational Presented by Rolex on 15 January. We caught up with Sam before she jetted to Florida to join the 72-strong invitational field at Eagle Creek Golf Club competing for the coveted title, important World Amateur Golf Ranking points and the chance to gain insights from the most prolific women’s Major winner in the world.
GolfRSA National B-squad inductee in 2019 and Elite Squad inductee in 2021
Country Club Johannesburg club champion 2020 and 2021 and being granted ambassadorship
Represented Gauteng provincially since 2016
Represented South Africa at the 2019 Ciputra Golfpreneur Junior World Championships
Winning the Limpopo Ladies Open (2019), the KZN Ladies Open (2019) and the KZNLGA Nomads Junior Girls Championship (2020 2021)
Being awarded my Sports Honours blazer at school
Q – Tell us where and when your love affair with golf started.
SW – Both my parents play golf, and my dad had already bought me a set of plastic golf clubs before I was born, so I guess my love affair with golf began before I was born and confirmed when I won my first SA Kids Golf tournament at the age of 9 at Huddle Park. From that day on I knew I wanted to pursue a career in golf.
Q – Are you the sort of golfer who sets yearly goals? If so, what goals did you set for yourself to achieve in 2021 and what are you targeting next season?
SW – I set goals at the beginning of every year and at the beginning of 2021 I hoped to represent South Africa abroad, and I targeted top 5 finishes in the big events, like the SA Women’s Amateur, and the Nomads SA Girls and Rosebowl tournaments. Next year my goals are to represent South Africa overseas, scoring well in the important tournaments and balancing being in matric while still working hard at golf.
Q – You are still a junior, but you have excelled on the Open Amateur circuit the past year. How tough is that transition and what aspects are the most difficult to adjust to?
SW – I played in my first open tournament in the C division when I was 10 and my first A division tournament when I was 12. It was initially quite intimidating, competing against players much older than me who could hit it so much further. As I grew older, I became stronger and more experienced, and the differences weren’t as significant.
Q – Talk to us about the strengths of your game and what are the weaknesses or aspects of the game you still need to attend to.
SW – I would say the strengths in my game are my accuracy off the tee and my lag putts. A weakness I have is that I struggle to read greens.
Q – You have been on GolfRSA National Squad for some time – what does being a member of the squad add to your game?
SW – Being on the GolfRSA National Squad has excelled my growth in the game. The National Squad camps are a great place to learn from highly successful coaches, as well as from my peers. The camps assist me to improve the mental side of my game and my short game, and the trackman helps me to learn and understand the mechanics of my swing better.
Q – Which tournaments would you most like to win and why?
SW – The SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play events are two of my dream tournaments to win as they are at my favourite golf course. Winning those would put my name on a prestigious list next to many successful South African golfers. I would also love to win the Nomads SA Girls and SA Rosebowl events, as I have participated in those tournaments since I was around 11. It would be amazing to win one, or both, after witnessing some of my role models win them.
Q – If you had to pick up one animal to describe you?
SW – A dog, because they are loyal, goofy and love to have fun.
Q – Describe the best meal you’ve had while on the road.
SW – When I went to Jakarta for the Ciputra World Junior Championship, I had a bowl of egg noodles and stir fry and although it was a little spicy, it was delicious.
Q – What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
SW – My Grandpa always used to tell me that having fun is the most important part of golf. If you are not enjoying what you do, there is no point.
Q – What is your favourite season and why?
SW – I love Spring because it is not too hot, and it is the time that all the flowers begin to blossom.
Q – Is there anything you are addicted to or can’t live without?
SW – Music
Q – Tell us about something you hate doing and why?
SW – I hate waking up early in the winter when it is dark outside because it is cold, and my brain struggles to wake up. I would much rather stay in bed and sleep.
Q – As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
SW – Before I started golf seriously, I always wanted to be a teacher.
Q – What’s your favourite club in your bag and why?
SW – My favourite club is my 4-iron. It’s the most satisfying feeling when I hit it out the middle.
Q – Describe yourself in one word.
SW – Witty
Q – What movie can you watch again and again and why?
SW – Pitch Perfect. And yes, I know all the songs by heart.
Q – Tell us about three things you consider yourself to be really good at.
SW – Making people laugh, planning and being there for people when they need me.
Q – What three things would you want to have on a deserted island and why?
SW – Food, my phone and a sand-wedge so I can practice my bunker shots.
Q – If golf wasn’t an option, what profession would you pursue and why?
SW – I would be a forensic psychologist, because I find analysing criminal behaviour very interesting.
Q – If they made a movie about your life, which actor would you pick to play you and why?
SW – Emma Stone. She is very funny, and we have a similar hair colour.
Q – What are your biggest fears?
SW – Sick people scare me, and drowning in the sea.
Q – What advice would you give youngsters just starting in the game?
SW – Work hard, but make it enjoyable at the same time. Having fun is one of the most important things to help you get into the game.
Q – If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
SW – Nelly Korda. I’d love to see what being the World No 1 is like and what life on the LPGATour entails.
Q – If you could meet and have lunch with anyone in the world (real, fictitious, from any time period, dead or alive) who would you choose?
SW – Lando Norris, the Formula 1 driver.
Q – Any superstitions?
SW – I don’t have any serious superstitions, but I do have some favourite outfits I wear often because I have played well in them. And I try not to play with golf balls with the number 4 on them.
Q – Which are your favourite golf courses and which golf courses would you still love to play?
SW – My favourite golf courses are the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington and the Woodmead Course at Country Club Johannesburg. I would love to play Augusta National and St Andrews – without the wind.
Q – What is your guilty pleasure?
SW – I click my knuckles, neck and back a lot because the sensation of relief after is amazing.
Q – Who would you like to play with in your own Fantasy Fourball?
SW – Nelly Korda, Justin Thomas and Viktor Hovland.
Q – Words to live by….
SW – Believing in yourself is the first step to success.
Q – If we gave you a free plane ticket anywhere, where would you go and why?
SW – I would go watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco and then go to the beach.
Q – Any hole-in-ones?
SW – I have had one hole-in-one at Schoeman Park during the Free State Ladies Open.
Q – I’m not embarrassed to say that ……
SW – Rice is one of my favourite foods.
Q – What is your favourite quote from a movie or a person?
SW – I am doing horizontal running – Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect
STILL ON THE BUCKET LIST
Represent South Africa in golf
Visit Paris and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night
Play Augusta National
Play the Old Course, St Andrews
Watch all the Harry Potter movies in one go