RISING STARS – MAGDA KRUGER
Top SA amateur Magda Kruger made national headlines in February when she lost the Sun International Challenge at Lost City in a play-off against former SA Women’s Open champion Tandi von Ruben.
In her second start on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, the 18-year-old shot an opening 71 to tie Von Ruben and kept pace with the Ladies European Tour campaigner through the first nine holes in the second round. After three early bogeys down the back nine, Kruger rallied with three birdies to match Von Ruben’s 72 and force a play-off.
Kruger’s tenacity at Sun City may have put her on everyone else’s golfing radar, but she has been making waves on the WGSA circuit since her debut at the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Championship in 2011.
Just two years after she took up the game, Kruger reached a six handicap and competed in the A-Division. She vaulted to second in the WGSA Junior Rankings early in 2013 and represented South Africa at the Annika Invitational Europe, Annika Invitational USA and the British Girls Amateur Championship. She was also a member of the victorious Gauteng North teams at the 72-hole Championship and the Pick n Pay SA Womens Inter-Provincial.
Although Kruger had to scale down her time on the fairways to prepare for her matric exams towards the end of 2013, she held on to a top five spot in the rankings. In 2014, the GFG Academy student vaulted to the top of the WGSA Senior Rankings after claiming a one stroke victory at the Eastern Province Stroke Play, top 10 finishes at the Border and North West Championships and three top 10 finishes on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
We chatted to Magda to learn more about the petite golfer behind one of the biggest swings on the women’s circuit.
What goals did you set for yourself to achieve in 2013? What are your long term goals and how do you hope to achieve them?
MK – I never really set goals for myself until I joined Graeme Francis at the GFG Academy. Now I am a firm believer in setting goals. My goal this year is to improve my stroke average. My current stroke average is 73.33 and my goal for 2013 is to take my stroke average down to a minimum of 72, or lower. Long term, my goals are to reach the number one spot in the WGSA Senior and Africa Rankings.
How tough is the transitioning between the junior and senior amateur circuits and now, the professional ranks? Tell us a little about the differences and what are most difficult obstacles to overcome?
MK – I cut my teeth on the Womens Golf South Africa’s junior circuit, which is very competitive and I believe it prepared me well for the transition to the senior circuit. I didn’t really notice the change. I guess I was a little nervous the first time I teed it up with the top SA amateurs, and again when I teed it up with the professionals in my first Sunshine Ladies Tour event, but you forget your nerves quickly once you get going in the tournaments.
What are your career highlights and victories, especially the ones that have become treasured memories?
MK – Among my career highlights was winning the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Match Play qualifier at Benoni Country Club in 2012, winning the 2012 KZN Nomads Junior Championship, the 2013 Gauteng North Junior Girls and the 2014 Eastern Province Stroke Play Championship this year. I also finished as the leading player in the individual standings at the 2013 All-Africa Challenge Trophy where I led the standings at 16 under par at Centurion Country Club with 65-64-71.
As for my most outstanding performance, it has to be tying for the lead in the first and final rounds of the Sun International Challenge at Lost City. It was only my second Sunshine Ladies Tour start and, even though I lost in the play-off against Tandi von Ruben, just making the play-off against one of South Africa’s top professionals was my proudest moment.
What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of your game?
MKT – I worked really hard on my long irons last year and I am hitting them really well. I am also pretty long and straight off the tee with the driver and irons, and these are the strengths of my game at present. I am currently working on my short game, which I believe will really improve my overall game.
What are your biggest fears?
MK – Worms and going to have your wisdom teeth extracted.
You had quite a meteoric rise, considering you only took up golf four years ago.
MK – Both my father and grandfather played golf and they sparked my interest. I took up the game when I turned 14 in 2009, and made my debut in the A-Section in the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur at Rustenburg Golf Club in 2011. People was surprised when I suddenly popped up, playing off a six-handicap, but that was the first time that I really felt ready to compete.
If you had to pick an animal that best represented you, what would you choose?
MK – Probably a Zebra, because I always prefer to wear black and white.
What is the best golf advice you have ever received?
MK – My dad gave me a book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and I use one of the habits – celebrate trouble – when I am out on the golf course. Basically, you have to accept that every shot won’t be perfect and you can’t always control the ball. Instead of sweating your mistakes or the outcome of a shot, you need to accept it and play on from there.
If they made a movie about your life, which actress would you choose to play you?
MK – Reece Witherspoon
Tell us how you feel about the chance to compete on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and what was it like to take on Tandi von Ruben in the final round at Lost City?
MK – I think that I learned a lot about myself in the last nine holes against Tandi in the final round. I made a couple of bogeys and I was three shots behind, but I managed to regroup and come back with three birdies to tie her for the lead. She is a really good player, and it was the first time I found myself in that kind of situation. It was a great learning curve for me and I really enjoyed the battle.
What advice would you give youngsters just starting in the game?
MK – Juniors should never forget to have fun at the game, because that will inspire you to work hard, to play in tournaments and gain experience. When you forget to have fun, the game becomes frustrating and boring.
Is there anything you can’t live without?
My playstation; I take it everywhere with me.
Who are your idols and why?
MK – I admire Rory McIlroy, who inspires me, and my dad, who teaches me about sportsmanship, life and keeping a level head out there.
What is still on your bucket list to achieve?
MK – To shoot a 59