Local pair eye SA Women’s Mid-Am Champs success

Southern Cape duo Sonja Bland and Sandra Winter will spearhead the local challenge in the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship that tees off at the magnificent George Golf Club today.

Bland, the champion in 2013, is targeting a repeat performance, while Winter – who claimed back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012 – is gunning for an unprecedented hat-trick in the prestigious national championship.

Both players are coming into the event in great form, having helped Southern Cape to B-Section glory in the South African Women’s Inter-Provincial at Umhlali Country Club earlier this month.

Bland certainly gave credence to her belief that age is just a number this season when she saw off several of South Africa’s top ranked amateurs to reach the semi-final round in the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Championship at Ebotse in early July.

She followed that with victory in the International Austrian Amateur Women’s Championship at the end of July.

“I turned 50 in June, so my husband John gifted me with an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Austrian event,” said the Fancourt golfer, who made the best possible use of her present.

Bland lagged one off the pace after rounds of 80 and 76, but overhauled the overnight leader Anna Dzurenda from the Czech Republic in the final round with an eagle at the second hole at the Golf Club Kremstal.

A double bogey at 10 saw Bland drop back into a tie with her Czech rival, but three solid pars over the closing holes saw her celebrate a three shot victory on 232.

“It was great to travel all that way and return with a trophy,” said Bland. “Since we only have a handful of mid-amateur and senior events in South Africa, it was pretty awesome to test myself against women my own age in such a prestigious international championship.

“Interestingly, the Austrian Golf Federation actually combines their international championships for Ladies, so the juniors up to 30, the mid-amateurs 30-49 and the seniors (50+) all compete in one event, with the exception that the seniors play off shorter tees. It’s a fantastic initiative to giv the European mid-amateurs and seniors a competitive circuit.”

Bland enjoyed even more success abroad with a tie for 10th in the Irish Senior Ladies and a joint 25th finish in the British Senior Ladies, arguably the strongest women’s senior event in the world.

The winner of last year’s Southern Cape Closed at George Golf Club is certainly a favourite heading into this year’s championship, but she is taking nothing for granted.

“I expect some healthy competition from Sandra and you cannot discount the defending champion Vanessa Smith from Western Province, who is also hunting a third victory,” Bland said.

“Sandra showed some great form at the SA Women’s Inter-Provincial and she is a very experienced player. She finished second last year and I definitely won’t bet against her with this year’s championship being played in our back-yard.”

In 2014, Smith claimed a runaway wire-to-wire victory at Irene Country Club. Last year she thwarted bids from Winter and Bland to defend her title after the flagship championship was reduced to 36 holes due after torrential rain washed out the first round at St Francis Links.

“Although her work commitments keep her very busy, Vanessa competes every weekend. With a hat-trick up for grabs, she will definitely be in the running if she gets off to a solid start.”

Other top contenders for the title include Boland’s Lynne Behagg, Adele Beytell from Gauteng North, Millie Zim−Dondashe from Border, Lisa Kowen from Western Province, Limpopo’s Desiree Earle and Lynn Slogrove from Eastern Province.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of Womens Golf South Africa.

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