Soweto – Scottish hopefuls Gabrielle Macdonald and Hannah McCook are among a 30 international campaigners hoping to make their first visit to the Soweto Country Club this week a memorable one.
Macdonald and McCook are looking forward to teeing it up in the first round of the R500 000 Joburg Ladies Open at the iconic Gary Player-designed venue on Wednesday.
“We didn’t play the Joburg Ladies Open last year, and everyone raved about the event, so we planned for it this season,” said former Scottish Women’s Amateur champion MacDonald.
“We arrived in South Africa last week, happy to exchange snow and sub-zero temperatures for sunny skies, and all fired up for the Canon Serengeti Par-3 Challenge, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
“The wind blew really cold and hard, and it made a very tough par-3 championship course even tougher. Of course, everyone kept telling us we must be feeling right at home. It wasn’t quite the sunny start we dreamed of, but it was a fantastic way to kick off our Sunshine Ladies Tour campaign.”
The Craigielaw golfer partnered Nicole Garcia and amateurs Daren Hanekom and Abri Kriegler to victory in the 36-hole pro-am, happy to put half of the R100 000 bonus on offer for the leading two professionals for two days’ work.
“I barely helped the team on day one, but I found my rhythm in the second round and I was happy to help the team with five birdies. Playing this event on the certainly Whistle Thorn course was probably the best way for Hannah and I to start our season here in South Africa,” said Macdonald.
“The course was very tough, with raised greens that were very slopey. The ball travels so much further in this part of the world, so we could adjust to the altitude and hone our short-games.”
McCook and Macdonald both turned professional on the back of very successful amateur careers with Scottish Golf. They made their debut in South Africa last year, but the transition has proven tough.
“We both did well on the Ladies European Tour Access Series, which definitely helped us to bridge the gap between amateur and pro golf, but unfortunately we didn’t make it at Q-School in January,” said McCook, a former Welsh and Irish Stroke Play champion.
“So we will be playing another season on the LET Access Series. It’s a really great circuit, though. We have a lot of tournaments and there is the opportunity to play your way onto the Ladies European Tour on the Order of Merit.
“We had a really great time out in South Africa last year, and because the LET Access only starts in April, we decided to come back. We’ll play the Jabra Ladies Classic next and the SA Women’s Open before we head back. The Sunshine Ladies Tour is perfect for us to get the winter rust off and be competitive at the start of the 2020 season.”
The Scots already collected one Sunshine Ladies Tour trophy this season, thanks to Jane Turner going wire-to-wire in the South African Women’s Masters at San Lameer Country Club last week, but the Joburg Ladies Open is on everyone’s bucket list this year, including Lejan Lewthwaite, who is targeting a hat-trick of titles after her trophy finishes in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am and SuperSport Ladies Challenge.
Garcia, who celebrated a return to the winner’s circle at Serengeti after spending the bulk of the 2019 season on the bench after hip surgery, is another contender eager to reel in a second title.
The winner of the Joburg Ladies Open will bank the winner’s share worth R70 000 and 650 points towards the Order of Merit race. Lewthwaite leads the current points list on 1 390 points from 2019 Joburg Ladies Open champion and Order of Merit winner Nobuhle Dlamini (877.50 points).