Western Province golfer Vanessa Smith celebrated her fifth national victory when she lifted the South African Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship title with an impressive wire-to-wire performance at Irene Country Club on Wednesday.
The Milnerton mid-amateur took the lead with an opening 74, but registered an unsatisfactory 84 in the second round that cut her eight shot advantage to just four strokes.
Smith made the trip to Pretoria a memorable one when she showed the chasing pack her heels with a closing 76 to seal a runaway nine stroke victory in the Championship Division with a winning total of 14-over-par 236.
Smith won the SA Junior Open and the SA Women’s Amateur Match Play in 2000. The same year, she lifted the Jackie Mercer Trophy as the leading amateur in the SA Women’s Open and the following year, won the SA Women’s Open in her rookie pro season.
The triumph followed closely on her recent triumph at the Boland Women’s Mid-Amateur and caps a solid season for Smith.
“I’m absolutely delighted to add this title to my national tally,” said the 36-year-old former professional.
“This victory means so much to me. I really wanted to win this title and I prepared well for the championship. But the older you get, the harder it gets and it don’t think it could any harder than this week.”
Although her final total was well over the target she set herself at the start of the week, Smith was nevertheless thrilled with the outcome.
“After the first round, I thought six over was a reasonable target, but the second round just killed me,” Smith said.
“I struggled to get going and was five over by the time she reached the turn. We were called off and sat around for nearly two hours to wait out the lightning. After the break, I just couldn’t get things going and the bogeys just added up.
“I still had a four shot lead, but I knew I would have to limit my mistakes in the final round. Liezl (Smit) and Jane (Mackenzie) came at me hard on the front nine, but by the time we reached the turn, I was pretty confident that I could win it.
“The course played incredibly long and I still had five bogeys on my card, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to finally knock in a birdie putt at the 17th. And finishing with a par at the 18thwas just the icing on the cake. This is a victory I will cherish for a very long time to come.”
Smit from Prince’s Grant closed with an 81 to take second on 243 and finished five strokes clear of defending champion Sonja Bland and fellow KwaZulu-Natal player, Mackenzie.
Bland closed with an 81, while former professional Mackenzie from Ladysmith signed for a final round 84.
The B-Division battle was hotly contested with the lead changing hands several time and went right down the wire.
Wendy Carruthers from KwaZulu-Natal rallied with three pars before the turn to join the challenge and held off a spirited charge down the back nine from Marinda Pretorius, Esta Tennent and overnight leader Erica Millican to close with an 85 for a one stroke victory on on 269.
Pretorius and Tennnent both registered 88s, while Millican carded 95 to claim a share of second on 270.
Gauteng North’s Piret Vilborn claimed a home victory in the C-Division. The Centurion golfer closed with 35 points to lift the title with 90 points. Vilborn finished five points clear of North West’s Janine Meyburgh, who collected 33 points in the final round to vault to second on her own.
A-DIVISION RESULTS – top five
234 Vanessa Smith 74 84 76
243 Liezl Smit 82 80 81
248 Sonja Bland 82 85 81; Jane Mackenzie 85 79 84
251 Lynne Behagg 86 84 81
B- DIVISION RESULTS – top five
269 Wendy Carruthers 95 89 85
270 Marinda Pretorius 97 85 88; Esta Tennent 91 91 88; Erica Millican 88 87 95
274 Rene Matthee 91 88 95
C- DIVISION RESULTS – top five
90 Piret Vilborn 24 31 35
85 Janine Meyburgh 24 28 33
84 Judy Katzenellenbogen 27 30 27
83 Theresa McCabe 25 30 28
82 Marelize Church 27 26 29