Whateley, Van der Merwe set Mount Edgecombe pace

Samantha Whateley led the 1st round of the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate; credit GolfRSA

19 February 2023 – Samantha Whateley opened up a four-shot lead in the opening round of South African Women’s Stroke Play Championship, while fellow GolfRSA National Squad member Janko van der Merwe took a slender one-shot lead in the 36-hole qualifier of the South African Amateur Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate on Sunday.

Whateley dipped into red figures at The Woods Course with a brace of birdies on the fifth and sixth holes but lost the early advantage with drops on nine and 13.

The Country Club Johannesburg golfer got it back to two-under with gains on 14 and 17 but stumbled on the par-four closing hole, however, her one-under-par 71 was four shots better than the six players in joint second.

Her closest challengers are recent Easter Province Border champion Jasmine Furstenburg from Southern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal pair Olivia Wood and Chloe Royston, Casey Twidale and Shannon Berry from Central Gauteng and Boland’s Crystal Beukes.

Whateley was overall satisfied, despite leaving a few shots out on the course.

“I am happy with how I played,” she said, “I putted quite nicely but I did let a few slip. My driving was superb, and I think I hit every fairway, which was my goal. I like this type of golf course; it’s not too long and it’s narrow, but I am excited to play The Lakes tomorrow, because I prefer the layout. You have to be more precise there, and you have to putt well. That’s my kind of game.”

Michelle Rae in action during the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate; credit GolfRSA.

In the Silver Division (handicap index 6.6 to 15.3) it was local pair Michelle Ray and Charlotte Phipps that not only proved once again that golf is a great equaliser with no age limit, but also that local course knowledge is worth its weight in gold.

Mid-Amateur Rae, the reigning Mount Edgecombe B-Division Club champion, and 15-year-old Phipps took different routes to arrive at the same number – a 14-over par total that tied them for the lead.

“It was awesome to represent my home club and play this beautiful course,” gushed a smiling Rae after the round. “I was pretty nervous to start, so I’m happy to get the first round behind me. It was a nice and steady round. It’s tough out there. The rough it up, and I’ve never seen it like that. You’re constantly fighting an inner struggle and I am just glad that I got through it to finish among the leaders.

Charlotte Phipps in action during the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate; credit GolfRSA.

“The Lakes will be a totally different course to The Woods. It’s not always open. It’s very tight and you have to put your ball in the right places; if you don’t, you’re in trouble. But I am up for the challenge and hopefully, I can make the club proud.”

Rae and Phipps lead by one stroke from 2022 South African Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship runner-up Russo Roberts-Gouws, who plays out of The Els Club Copperleaf, while Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club trio Valentina Sakota, Sarah Gutuza and Stacey-Lee van Gent will start the second round at the par-72 Lakes Course two behind the leader.

Meanwhile reigning Nomads SA Boys U-17 champion Janko van der Merwe put pedal to the metal at the Lakes Course, racking up 10 birdies for an unchallenged early clubhouse target of seven-under.

Newly-crowned SA Stroke Play champion Martin Couvra and runner-up Joshua Hill from Ireland were both in ascendancy again. The duo took route 66 to finish to tie for second alongside the Southern Cape Golf Union’s Junior Golfer of 2022, Ivan Verster.

A flawless four-under 68 got Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s Filip Sakota a seat on the eight-man bus in fourth place with reigning African Amateur champion Aldrich Potgieter from Southern Cape, Boland’s Meyer Pauw, Jack Buchanan from Western Province, Gauteng North’s Matthew Rossouw and the Irish pair of Peter O’Keeffe and Hugh Foley.

Janko van der Merwe in action during the SA Amateur stroke play qualifier at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate; credit GolfRSA.

The 16-year-old Van der Merwe attributed his pacesetting effort to great distance control.

“I was hitting the ball well today and I was hitting my iron shots close,” he said. “That was important because the rough is up and you have to find the fairways. It felt like the course was playing to my strengths. The course is also very wet due to the all the rain we’ve had, but the greens were really good. My iron-play was very strong, and my putter was good to me.”

While Whateley will sleep on a comfortable four-shot cushion, Van der Merwe knows he will need to produce another low one at The Woods if he hopes to lift the Proudfoot Trophy and secure the No 1 spot in the top 64 match play draw.

It’s a different course for the final round, but my strategy remains the same,” he said. “Try to keep the ball on the fairways. The rough is long, so you want to stay on the fairways on Woods.”