Samu-Telfer tussle inspires and motivates

Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson. Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones versus Walter Hagen. Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Mickey Wright versus Kathy Whitworth. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Those were just some of golf’s greatest rivalries that made a great sport even greater for its fans over the years. There is nothing more magical than the tussle between up-and-coming stars and their desire to beat each other have produced some of the greatest moments in golf.

However, rivalries also inspire and that is certainly the case in women’s amateur golf in South Africa.

Ivanna Samu and Kaleigh Telfer spent the better part of last season jostling for the number one position on the Womens Golf South Africa (WGSA) Senior Rankings and their rivalry is alive and kicking five months into 2016.

Samu reigned supreme for the better part of 2015, but Telfer replace her at the top near the end of the season after reeling in four victories. The Ernie Els and Fancourt member held the number one ranking until February when Samu regained the top spot at the Border Championship.

However, Samu’s reign was short-lived.

Telfer won the KwaZulu-Natal Championship in March, raced to a six stroke victory in the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship in late April and, just a week ago, the 18-year-old Bryanston golfer made it a hat-trick with a runaway 11-shot victory in the ProShop Gauteng Championship at Ruimsig Country Club.

The effervescent Samu hit back, though, with success in the Free State Championship this past weekend.

The lanky 17-year-old GFG Academy player carded rounds of 71, 73 and 72 at the Heron Banks Golf and River Estate in Sasolburg to triumph by six shots from Danielle du Toit and the victory pushed Roodepoort’s Samu back in the driver’s seat on the Senior Rankings.

The rivalry has no doubt boosted their individual games, but what does the Gauteng team-mates make of their battle for supremacy?

“Kaleigh and I both grew up watching the rivalry between Ashleigh Simon, Stacy Bregman and Kelli Shean,” Samu said.

“They went on to claim South Africa’s only victory in the Espirito Santo Trophy in 2006 and it is one of our biggest goals is to try and do the same. We both know the road to success has rough patches and you need to curve around those spots.

“That means that sometimes I win, sometimes Kaleigh wins and sometimes it’s someone else holding the trophy. It’s the nature of the sport we play, so it’s a given that we will compete against each other. As long as the friendship survives off the course, it’s something we enjoy and it keeps us humble.”

Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member Telfer added:

“First we watched Ashleigh, Stacy and Kelli. Then came Connie Chen and Bertine Strauss and then it was Kim Williams and Nobuhle Dlamini,” Telfer said.

“Those rivalries inspired Ivanna and I as juniors. I think rivalries are positive, because we are definitely better players for it. We push each other to excel on and off the course, we sympathise with each other’s bad holes and we celebrate the good ones.

“I hope that Ivanna and I motivate and inspire the juniors in the same way our idols inspired us. It’s not only good for us, but great for the next generation to be inspired to reach for the stars.”

WGSA president Karen Olivant says the tussle at the top provides for great golf and excitement and the knock-on effect of their rivalry is just as exciting to watch.

“The rivalry between Ivanna and Kaleigh pushes them to work harder and South Africa benefits from their competitiveness when they team up for the country,” Olivant said. “But their rivalry has also taken the standard of women’s amateur golf to a higher level.

“We have seen this with Zethu Myeki, who travelled with Kaleigh and Ivanna for the All-Africa Challenge Trophy to Tunisia. Zethu has been very impressive in the last two seasons and competing against the likes of Kaleigh and Ivanna has seen her rocket from 55th in the rankings in 2014 to the current number four spot.

“Woo-Ju Son has not only overtaken Ivanna and Kaleigh for the top spot in the junior rankings, but the 15-year-old from Gauteng has risen to third in the Senior Rankings. Other young stars like Symone Henriques, Danielle du Toit, Chiara Contomathios, Brittney Fay-Berger and 13-year-old Caitlyn McNab are also starting to come into their own.

“There is a long list of players behind Ivanna and Kaleigh in the rankings that have stepped up to a higher level this season and this bodes incredibly well for the growth and development of women’s amateur golf in South Africa.”

PHOTO 1 – Free State Championship winner Ivanna Samu with Free State Ladies Golf Union president Herna Els; credit FSLGU
PHOTO 2 – ProShop Gauteng Championship winner Kaleigh Telfer with Ladies Golf Gauteng president Antoinette le Roes and Billy Meyburgh, representing The ProShop; credit LGG

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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