SA Team primed for WATC for Japan

South Africa’s Michaela Fletcher, Monja Richards and Cara Gorlei are primed for the Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships, which tees off at the Karuizawa 72 East Golf Club in Karuizawa, Japan on Wednesday.

“We shook off the jetlag with a nice walk around the Oshitate and Iriyama Courses on Sunday,” said Womens Golf South Africa president, Karen Olivant.

“Although our first practice round was a wet one, the team is highly motivated after their practice round at the Oshitate course on Monday. Although we had a delayed start due to heavy mist and the early drizzle turned into a downpour that lasted all day, the players still enjoyed the experience.”

National elite squad coach, Val Holland, and non-playing captain, Tom Dawson Squibb from Headstart accompanied the team during the practice round.

Holland is confident that the team is ready for the challenge ahead.

“We did a lot of preparation over the last 12 months for this event and now that we are here, we will stick to a structured plan for the tournament,” Holland said.

“The players all have goals and we have reinforced these with three basic principles – a winning attitude, passion and patriotism. We will reinforce these values during an opening session with Tom each morning and then put them through some drills in the gym, followed by a practice session that includes chipping, putting, bunker work and a little time on the range.

“Essentially, the work is done and we are just going over routines. If things do go south on the golf course, it is important for them to go back to their routine immediately. At the end of each day, Tom will have a closing session with the players to put the day, and the round, to bed.”

The local trio will line up alongside the Russian Federation and Venezuela in round one at the Oshitate Course and will play their second round at the Iriyama Course.

Richards and Gorlei travelled from South Africa, but Fletcher flew in from the United States where she recently took up a golf scholarship at the University of Memphis.

The Pietermaritzburg amateur barely had time to register and start classes and practice with the Memphis Tigers golf team before she had jetted to Japan.

“I’m really excited to be back with the team,” said Fletcher. “It’s my first time playing in the event and I’m really excited about playing. I couldn’t wait to put on the green and gold for South Africa.

“It’s such an honour to represent my country with pride and I will play to the best of my ability.”

Fletcher claimed three provincial match play titles this season and a runner-up finish in the Sanlam SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship, while Richards won two provincial stroke play titles.

Gorlei has enjoyed a dream season with podium finishes at the Nomads SA Girls Rose Bowl Championship and SA Girls Championship and the Gauteng North Championship.

The United States dominated the Espirito Santo Trophy since its launch in 1964 with 13 victories, three runner-up finishes and three third place finishes.

However, since France claimed victory in 2000, the championship has enjoyed a slew of international winners, including Australia (2002), Sweden (2002 and 2008), defending champions South Korea (2010 and 2012) and South Africa in 2006, with Ashleigh Simon, Stacy-Lee Bregman and Kelli Shean successfully lifting the title on home soil.

The world’s most prestigious biennial team competition is held under the auspices of the International Golf Federation and rotates among three geographical zones of the world, including Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe-Africa.

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

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