20 August 2022 – GolfRSA and Gabbi Venter were named finalists in the 2022 Momentum gsport Awards alongside reigning British Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai this August.
Venter is a finalist in the SuperSport School Star of the Year alongside four-time reigning discus champion Lesedi Khunou and footballer Cimone Sauls.
GolfRSA is up against the Momentum Proteas and Banyana Banyana in the Team of the Year category and Buhai has two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lara van Niekerk and International Football Federation referee Akhona Makalima for company in the Sasol Global Women in Sport category.
“We are thrilled that golf once again made the short list in three categories,” said GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn.
“We are extremely proud of Gabbi and Ash, and of our GolfRSA National Squad’s performance since golf tournaments were re-instated following the Covid-19 lockdown late last year. Our squad members did not have an opportunity to travel abroad and gain invaluable experience for almost two years, but they once again have done us proud on the local and international stage.
“For more than a decade, the Momentum gsport Awards has done phenomenal work in shining a spotlight on our female athletes, as well as the administrators, volunteers, media and others who work tirelessly to promote women’s sport.
“We have been blessed with multiple finalists in the awards since 2018, the year GolfRSA was named Federation of the Year, and being a finalist in the Team of the Year category against two top performing international teams is a nod to the surging talent in the game.
“It also acknowledges every golf club and golf union, every coach and academy, all the golf institutions, sponsors and our golf administrators and volunteers who collaborate with GolfRSA to identify upcoming talent and help us to nurture champions for the future.”
Venter’s rise to No 1 in the GolfRSA Open and Junior Rankings this year has been nothing short of extra-ordinary and she underlined her blossoming talent with her first national victory in July and her first international success in August.
Having broken into the top 10 just before the hard-lock down in 2019, Gabbi rose rapidly in the rankings after provincial golf resumed in September 2021.
The Bloemfontein junior won the Boland Amateur and racked up a string of top five finishes from October. Her victory in the Western Province Amateur in March 2022 took her to number one in both the GolfRSA Open and Junior Rankings and she has retained pole position throughout the season.
In early July, the Eunice High School matriculant picked up her first national title in the Nomads SA Girls Championship at the Gary Player Country Club in thrilling fashion.
Having tied fellow national squad member Sam Whateley for the lead in regulation play, she fired an incredible second shot into the island green of the par-5 ninth hole. Venter boxed the eagle putt to wrap up victory at the first extra hole.
Barely a month later, she made her mark on the international stage by becoming the first South African to win the St Andrews Junior Girls Open since the prestigious world-ranking event launched in 1989.
Venter not only won the match play at the Old Course, but also beat a highly-rated international field to win the qualifying tournament by five shots.
Her triumph at St Andrews continued the GolfRSA National Squad’s string of successes on the international stage in 2022.
Bobbi Brown, Whateley and Kyra van Kan successfully defended the country’s All Africa Junior Golf Championship title in Egypt in March, extending South Africa’s unbroken winning record in this event since 2018.
The GolfRSA Junior Protea Boys also completed a convincing 29-stroke title defence, with Brown and Pascal Gunther claiming the Individual titles.
Both teams qualified for the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup, where the GolfRSA Junior Protea Girls team finished fifth and the Boys Team fourth overall.
A determined GolfRSA Protea Team also scored a clean sweep in the 2022 Africa Region 5 Golf Tournament to reel in South Africa’s 24th victory in Angola.
Aldrich Potgieter’s enjoyed a momentous march to victory in the 127th Amateur Championship just days after Jono Broomhead won the Qualifier, and Christiaan Maas lifted the Brabazon Trophy.
Squad members also reeled in over 10 titles on the US collegiate circuit in 2022, while Christo Lamprecht, Caitlyn Macnab, Kieron van Wyk, Kajal Mistry, Cole Stevens and Kaleigh Telfer all qualified for the prestigious NCAA Championship, while Crystal Beukes represented South Africa in the 2022 FISU World University Games in Italy.
On home soil, national squad members dominated in the GolfRSA National events and provincial tournaments, racking up 10 junior and 24 open amateur titles.
It was also an excellent year for GolfRSA’s women’s amateur division on the development front.
The women’s premier junior and national championships drew record entries, with more than half of the 101-strong field in the Nomads SA Girls Championship at Sun City competing in the event for the first time. Besides Venter’s triumph, national squad member Phenyo Sebata won the B-Division, the C-Division was won by nine-year-old Danielle Chong and golf development standout Lwazi Goba had her first national win in the D-Division.
Free State secured a historic first promotion in the 72-hole Teams Championship and GolfRSA also launched its first SA Women’s Mid-Amateur Inter-Provincial in Parys.
Buhai’s epic play-off victory in the AIG Women’s Open in August was undoubtedly the greatest moment for women’s golf development in South Africa this year.
With the win, the 33-year-old ended a 32-year wait since Sally Little lifted her second Major title in 1988 – a year before Buhai was born. When one considers that South African male professionals have racked up 22 Major titles, you can really appreciate the impact of her success.
Much was expected of Buhai, who became the youngest SA Women’s Stroke Play and Match Play double winner, and youngest South African Women’s Open champion at the age of 14.
Although the former national squad member won three times on the Ladies European Tour and racked up 11 Sunshine Ladies Tour titles, success on the LPGA Tour eluded her.
When the breakthrough finally happened at Muirfield, it not only propelled her into the top 30 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings – the highest position she has ever held – but gained Buhai exemption into all the lucrative top-60 only events at the end of the LPGA Tour season.
Certainly a year to remember for Ash Buhai, Gabbi Venter and GolfRSA.