Team Buhai soars at Investec SA Women’s Open

Team Buhai soars at Investec SA Women’s Open
Ashleigh Buhai tees off at the Investec South African Women's Open 2023 at Steenberg Golf Club. (Photo: Sunshine Tour Images)

Ashleigh Buhai arrived at the Investec South African Women’s Open as a pre-tournament favourite and has lived up to the tag after two near-flawless rounds.

Reigning Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai demonstrated why she is a major champion over the first two rounds of the Investec South African Women’s Open at Steenberg Golf Club.

With her husband on the bag, as he was when she won the title in 2018, a relaxed Buhai posted a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 on Thursday to stretch to a four-stroke lead at the halfway mark.

Buhai missed five of 14 fairways, and hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the serene way she went about her work.

Of course, it helps when you’re putting sublimely, and, with just 26 putts for the second round in a row, once she hit the front, there wasn’t much doubt that she’d be in the lead going into the final two rounds of the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Ladies European Tour (LET).

“It’s always good fun to have (husband) Dave on the bag,” Buhai said. “He caddied for me for eight years, no one knows my game better other than my coach Doug Wood. It’s good when we can do these one-off weeks together every now and then.”

In her first round, she made a bogey, and for her second trip around the course, she managed to minimise errors completely.

“It is always a good day when you have no bogeys, so that’s first things first,” said Buhai, who is aiming for what would be her fourth national open title.

“My front nine was a little bit of a slow start, and I got a bit unlucky on number five when I hit the flag and it ricocheted all the way back down the green. I stayed patient and then managed to finish birdie-birdie on the front nine.

“The golf course is staying soft, so you can be a bit more aggressive, but the pins were a little bit more tucked today. At the same time, I had to be patient. I felt myself trying to push a little bit and then on seven, I hit it left and I said to myself to just hit it to my spaces and the birdies will come and that’s what I did on the back nine.”

Chasing pack

In second place was the German teenager Chiara Noja, who fired a course-record 62 in the first round to top Buhai’s opening 64.

The 16-year-old Noja, who already had a LET title behind her name, was only able to grind out a one-under-par 71 in the second round which she started in heavy early-morning rain.

There were four players in a share of third on eight-under-par, including last year’s runner-up, Magdalena Simmermacher, who lost out to Lee-Anne Pace in an epic six-hole play-off.

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The Argentinean had perhaps the round of the day with her five-under in the very challenging early-morning conditions.

Spaniard Ana Pelaez Trivino, who also had a five-under, but much later in the day, Nastasia Nadaud from France, who signed for a two-under 70, and Dutch golfer Romy Meekers, who also carded 70, share third with Simmermacher.

Read in Daily Maverick:Maiden major was worth the wait for Ashleigh Buhai, South Africa’s first lady of golf

Backing up Buhai’s efforts for South Africa were rookie Kaleigh Telfer and Casandra Alexander.

Ashleigh Buhai

Ashleigh Buhai with caddie and husband Dave, during the second round of the Investec South African Women’s Open 2023 at Steenberg Golf Club. (Photo: Sunshine Tour Images)

Telfer was impressive with a bogey-free three-under-par 69, and Alexander, who has won twice on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this season, overcame a bogey on the 10th with five birdies on her way to a 68. They were on six-under for the tournament in a share of sixth.

With the two South Africans were Johanna Gustavsson from Sweden, who had a 72, England’s Gabriella Cowley, who had a 69, and compatriot Lily May Humphreys, who leads the Investec Order of Merit on the Sunshine Ladies Tour after her win in the Joburg Open last week.

Humphreys birdied the final hole for a round of 71.

The cut to 60 and ties fell at level-par, leaving a field of 60 professionals and South Africa’s No 1-ranked amateur Kyra van Kan to battle things out over the final 36 holes.

For Buhai, things look pretty rosy with a four-shot lead, but she knows that things can change in the blink of an eye.

“I’ll need to keep doing what I’m doing,” she said. “I will stick to my process and stick to my steps and try to stick to my thoughts that I have in my swing. That’s all I can control and hopefully the outcome will be what we want.” DM

Leaderboard (SA unless stated)

129 – Ashleigh Buhai 64 65

133 – Chiara Noja (GER) 62 71

136 – Magdalena Simmermacher (ARG) 69 67, Ana Pelaez Trivino (ESP) 69 67, Nastasia Nadaud (FRA) 66 70, Romy Meekers (NED) 66 70

138 – Kaleigh Telfer 69 69, Casandra Alexander 70 68, Lily May Humphreys (ENG) 67 71, Johanna Gustavsson (SWE) 66 72, Gabriella Cowley (ENG) 69 69

139 – Nicole Broch Estrup (DEN) 69 70, Nadia van der Westhuizen 68 71, Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) 70 69, Lisa Pettersson (SWE) 72 67, Michele Thomson (SCO) 72 67, Elena Hualde (ESP) 70 69

140 – Laura Beveridge (SCO) 70 70, Alessandra Fanali (ITA) 70 70, Alexandra Forsterling (GER) 72 68, Eleanor Givens (ENG) 69 71, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 69 71, Anna Magnusson (SWE) 72 68, Vani Kapoor (IND) 72 68

141 – Patricia Isabel Schmidt (GER) 68 73, Pranavi Urs (IND) 70 71, Sara Kouskova (CZE) 70 71, Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) 72 69, Kylie Henry (SCO) 68 73, Cara Gorlei 72 69, Christine Wolf (AUT) 72 69

142 – Alice Hewson (ENG) 72 70, Alexandra Swayne (ISV) 72 70, Klara Davidson Spilkova (CZE) 72 70, Liz Young (ENG) 71 71, Anais Meyssonnier (FRA) 71 71

143 – Julie Boysen Hillestad (NOR) 69 74, Nicole Garcia 70 73, Madelene Stavnar (NOR) 71 72, Moa Folke (SWE) 75 68, Smilla Tarning Soenderby (DEN) 68 75, Sarah Schober (AUT) 70 73, Marta Sanz Barrio (ESP) 69 74, Sanna Nuutinen (FIN) 70 73, Tandi McCallum 72 71, Lee-Anne Pace 70 73, Chloe Williams (WAL) 70 73, Emie Peronnin (FRA) 70 73, Nuria Iturrioz (ESP) 72 71, Helen Kreuzer (GER) 73 70

144 – Olivia Cowan (GER) 73 71, Sara Kjellker (SWE) 76 68, Agathe Sauzon (FRA) 68 76, Cara Gainer (ENG) 72 72, Vanessa Knecht (SUI) 72 72, Amy Taylor (ENG) 74 70, Jane Turner (SCO) 69 75, Noora Komulainen (FIN) 72 72, Maiken Bing Paulsen (NOR) 73 71, Kyra van Kan (a) 74 70, Camille Chevalier (FRA) 75 69


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