Macnab wary of strong field ahead of SA Amateur title defence

Ekurhuleni pair Casey Jarvis and Caitlyn Macnab launch their SA Amateur Championships title defence at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Sunday, 14 February; credit Ernest Blignault.

13 February 2021 – While Casey Jarvis heads into the defence of his title in hot form after lifting the African Amateur Championship last week, there is a little more pressure on fellow 2020 champion Caitlyn Macnab in the SA Amateur Championships at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club from 14-19 February.

Twelve months ago, Macnab and Casey Jarvis made history for Ekurhuleni when the pair both achieved the ‘double” in the two men’s and women’s flagship events.

Jarvis followed a nine-shot SA Stroke Play Championship triumph at Randpark Golf Club with a 7 & 6 victory in the SA Amateur at Royal, and Macnab was equally unflappable over the six days of action on the challenging East and West Courses at Royal.

The GolfRSA No 1 celebrated her 18th birthday with a two-shot victory in the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship and closed out the SA Women’s Match Play title a few days later with a 4 & 3 result in her 36-hole match play final.

This week Macnab is bidding to become the second golfer to bag back-to-back victories in the history of these prestigious women’s events.

Only Ashleigh Buhai (nee Simon) has pulled off this incredible feat, with her double at Pretoria Country Club in 2006 and George Golf Club a year later.

2020 SA Women’s Stroke Play champion Caitlyn Macnab; credit Ernest Blignault

“It is definitely my goal for 2021 and I’ve worked hard to get ready for it,” said a confident Macnab, who has happy to put a tough 2020 behind her.

Shortly after the SA Amateur Championships the country went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Golf re-opened in June, but the Serengeti golfer was behind the books. “It was my matric year so golf had to take a back seat,” said Macnab, who only made one competitive appearance, in the Ekurhuleni Women’s Open, where she duly lived up her number one billing by taking the Open, Closed and Junior titles at Glendower Golf Club.

“I passed well and secured a golf scholarship for Texas Christian University, so now it’s just golf, golf, golf. I worked really hard on my game right through the holidays and I feel as ready as I can be for the week ahead.”

The Womens Golf South Africa Elite Squad member knows she will need her A-Game to stave off the other title contenders.

“The first hurdle to cross is the Stroke Play and there is a long line of players gunning for the title, starting with Larissa (du Preez), She was second in the Stroke Play last year and she will be confident, coming off a win in the Eastern Province & Border Championship.

Kaylah Williams led the second round and she finished third overall last year and Kyra (van Kan) tied for third in the stroke play and made it all the way to the match play final. She was only 14 at the time, and she will have gained a lot more experience in the past year.”

Macnab is also wary of Jordan Rothman and Megan Streicher.

Rothman won the match play at Umhlali in 2018 and, having completed high school, will also have come to the former Joburg Open host venue well prepared.

Streicher produced strong performances in the 2019 edition at Woodhill, finishing sixth in the stroke play and reaching semi-finals in the match play. “Last year I played Royal Johannesburg for the first time and I found the courses very challenging,” said the 18-year-old Swellendam golfer, who recently replaced Macnab in the top spot of the GolfRSA Junior Rankings.

“I tied for 10th in the stroke play and got knocked out in the first round of the match play. I believe I will do a lot better this year. I have matured and I have gained a lot more experience. I also know what to expect out there this time around. I hope to make a strong start in Sunday’s first round on the West and build from there.”

Other players on her watch list include up-and-coming squad members Kiera Floyd, Sam Whateley and Kera Healey, Gauteng trio Kim Turgut, Stephanie Barbaglia and Marine Legentil and local favourites Nadia van der Westhuizen and Kaylan Boshoff.

2020 SA Women’s Amateur B-division champion Ladina Semadeni; credit Ernest Blignault

Swiss golfer Ladina Semadeni, who won the B-Division title last year, was unable to make the trip to defend due to the travel restrictions, but 20-year-old Italian Federica Biscuoli and 19-year-old Victoria Monod from Switzerland will be flying the international flag at RJK this week.

While the A-Division traditionally draws a very strong field, the SA Women’s Stroke Play has always offered a unique opportunity through its B-Division for the younger generation to gain experience by competing at the highest level.

This year’s 83-strong field includes nine youngsters between the ages of 10 and 13, including 12-year-old Phenyo Sebata, who won the Ladies Club Championship at Zwartkop Country Club last year.

The championship has also drawn a healthy number of mid-amateurs and seniors.

Heather Kruger – the 2020 SA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship B-Division winner – leads a group of seven mid-amateurs, while Valda Ford is the oldest entrant at 57.

The Randpark golfer will go head-to-head with 50-year-olds Bongiwe Shabalala, Rita Teka, Leonie Swart and local member Carmen Taljaard for the senior honours.

Meanwhile Jarvis will start his week on Sunday contending for the top spot in the 36-hole stroke play qualifier for the match play stage.

Last year Sam Simpson beat Jarvis by three shots to lift the Proudfoot Trophy, denying the Boksburg golfer the chance to become the second golfer after Louis de Jager in 2007 to win the SA Stroke Play, SA Amateur and the Proudfoot Trophy in one calendar year.

Jarvis will have his job cut out, though, as several players have laid down markers with strong performances in both the SA Stroke Play and African Amateur, including fellow GolfRSA National Squad members Martin Vorster – the 2021 SA Stroke Play champion – as well as Yurav Premlall, Kieron van Wyk, Kyle de Beer, Christiaan Maas and Kyle de Beer.