27 July 2016 – South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon will join a bevy of world stars, including her Olympic Games team-mate Paula Reto and compatriot Lee-Anne Pace at the Ricoh Women’s British Open in England on Thursday.
Simon was among 85 hopefuls who contested the last 16 places for the starting line-up at Woburn Golf Club in the Final Qualifying at John O’ Gaunt Golf Club in Sandy on Monday. She fired a four-under-par 71 to tie for seventh, comfortably snapping up her spot for the season’s four Major.
“When we arrived in England after eight successive starts on the LPGA Tour, I wasn’t too sure what to expect in the qualifier, but I knew I would go all out to make the field,” she said.
“In the end, it went really well. I managed to offset a double bogey at seven with three birdies on the front nine to turn one under and erased a drop at 10 with a birdie at 13. I made three great birdies at 15, 16 and 18 to grab a share of seventh.”
Simon teed it up at the Trump Turnberry Resort in South Ayrshire, Scotland last year after she also came through the Final Qualifying with flying colours.
The two-time European Ladies Tour champion made the most of the sunny conditions in the first round to lead the South African pack with an opening even-par 72 and followed with a 77 to make the cut with Pace, while Reto’s debut was cut short by rounds of 79 82.
Pace finished the week in joint 24th – her second best finish in the Ricoh British Women’s Open since she finished joint 21st at Royal Birkdale in 2010 – but Simon’s hopes to improve on a career-best joint 43rd at Royal Birkdale in 2010 were dashed by rounds of 76 and 75 on the weekend.
Simon made her debut in the Ricoh British Women’s Open as an amateur in 2006 and she hopes to make the most of her 10th appearance this week.
“I am really pleased that I made the field and I want to make this one count so close to the Olympics,” said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player.
“My coach (Doug Wood) and I worked on my game during the US Women’s Open and everything feels good. I’ve shaken off the jetlag and I’m rearing to go. Unlike the links-style courses I’ve played in the past, the Marquess course has more of a parklands look and feel. It’s more tree-lined, but the greens are big and it poses a lot of challenges.”
Wanna Be A Champion Academy stable-mate Nicole Garcia and fellow South African Stacy Bregman were also among the 85 qualifiers at John O’Gaunt, but both players missed with respective rounds of 74 and 77.
India’s Aditi Ashok fired a nine under 66 to win the Final Qualifier. The 18-year-old from Bangalore finished three shots ahead of Spain’s Marta Sanz and Annie Park from the United States.
Coming off a tie for third in the US Women’s Open earlier this month, it is not surprising that world number one Lydia Ko will start Thursday’s first round as one of the clear favourites.
She broke through for her first major triumph in the 2015 Evian Championship, claimed this year’s ANA Inspiration and also came close in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she lost to another favourite this week – Canadian Brooke Henderson – in a play-off.
The 19-year-old golf prodigy finished joint third in last year’s edition and believes she has gained the mental strength to take it all the way to the winner’s circle this year.
“It’s been a learning process, but winning the Evian gave me a lot of confidence,” said Ko. “Winning the ANA Inspiration and contending in the next two Majors built on that. You are always learning. Even if you lose, there is always a key thing you can take away at the end of each week. What I’ve learned this season is that every round is a new round, every day a new day.
“I remember a couple of years ago, I shot 80 or 80-something in the final round of the British Women’s Open and won the Marathon Classic the next week. You’ve got to learn not to punish yourself so much for the bad weeks. Sometimes we have those days where everything clicks, but sometimes it doesn’t and that’s just the way it is.”