12 February 2024 – Golf prodigy Gia Raad put on a masterful display at magnificent Modderfontein Golf Club to walk away with the most prestigious title in South African amateur women’s golf while Paola Sakota celebrated her first national success in the Flight Division this February.
In a battle of teens, 16-year-old Central Gauteng junior Raad was composure and confidence personified as she romped to a 6 & 5 victory over Olivia Wood (17) from KwaZulu-Natal in the 36-hole final of the South African Women’s Amateur Championship.
The win comes off the back of a sparkling eight months for the Country Club Johannesburg member, where she has notched up victories in the English Girls and Nomads SA Girls Championships, the Mpumalanga Women’s Open, the Boland Women’s Open and the Free State Open. And she came into the event carrying hot form after a top five in the Orange Bowl Junior Invitational and top 10 in the Hilton Grand Vacations Annika Invitational presented by Rolex.
“Winning the SA Women’s Amateur has always been a goal and it’s the greatest feeling in the world to know I achieved it,” said Raad, who moved to third in the GolfRSA Open Amateur Ranking. “It is the highest honour, and I never thought I would win it this soon. I’m over the moon.”
Raad finished fourth in the SA Stroke Play Championship but did not have an easy run to the final.
After downing Cheslyn Jacobs 1-up in the first round, she needed 20 holes to eliminate fellow National Squad member Phenyo Sebata, but she kicked into a higher gear to defeat Kamaya Moodliar 5 & 4 and reach the semi-finals.
Facing a feisty Charlotte Millard, who ousted newly-minted South African Women’s Stroke Play champion and tournament favourite Kyra van Kan, Raad took the reins early on, and led 2-up through 12 holes. But Millard rallied and won 16 and 18 to holes to force the match into extra holes.
Back on the first tee, Millard’s tee shot ended up in the penalty area and, with Raad on the green in two, Millard conceded the match.
On the final day Raad birdied the first two holes and got herself into an early lead after four holes. She never surrendered her advantage, despite some fighting play by Umhlali’s Wood, who won the last two holes of the opening 18 to trail 1-down at the halfway stage.
Despite Wood’s best efforts and never-say-die attitude, Raad went 3-up on the 21st hole, won the 26th hole with a birdie to go 4-up and an eagle on the 28th moved her into unbeatable territory.
“I have played a lot of golf in the last few months, but today the adrenalin really kicked in and I had plenty of energy,” Raad said. “My game throughout the championship was solid and very consistent and I just stuck to that gameplan today.
“I’m really very happy with how I played. Livvy put up a good fight, particularly around the turn, but I knew I just had to play my own game. I’m so happy I was able to hold it together. Last year I didn’t do well in the match play, and I was very disappointed. I’m very happy with the win this year.”
The Flight Division title also went the way of Central Gauteng, with Poala Sakota from Royal Johannesburg celebrating her first national victory.
The 17-year-old edged Isabella Heber from King David Mowbray 1-up in the first round, downed Serengeti’s Lonique Jansen van Vuuren 4 & 2 in the second, and routed Isabella Williams from Clovelly 5 & 4 to reach the semi-finals.
The top four match between Sakota and Holly Erler was all-square after 14 holes, but the Clovelly golfer bowed out of the contest with four successive bogeys over the last four holes. Boosted by the 5 & 4 win, Sakota took command in the 18-hole final against Zané Fourie on the fifth hole.
The Silver Lakes golfer could not find a way to dent her opponent’s confidence and Sakota wrapped up her first national title with a 4 & 3 win.
“It felt really good to win,” the Central Gauteng junior said. “Zané putted really well, so I had to make some birdies. My iron shots were just horrible, but my driving was flush, and I made every up-and-down. Winning this is a great boost to my confidence and gives me a good jump in the rankings.”