JOHANNESBURG, 22 April 2017 – Kajal Mistry. Woo Ju Son. Chiara Contomathios. Danielle du Toit. Kaiyuree Moodley. All juniors and all winners on the Women’s Golf South Africa circuit this season.
And the odds are good that one of them will step onto the podium in this year’s Sanlam South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, says defending champion Kaleigh Telfer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the juniors in contention at Wanderers Golf Club,” says the 18-year-old who will launch her title defence from 23-25 April.
“There is a wave of younger players that have fought their way into the top 10 in the last few months and they could definitely be contenders this year. In fact, the juniors have dominated the championship in the last few years. Carrie Park was 17 when she won in 2014, Ivanna Samu was 17 when she won in 2015 and I was 17 when I won last year.
“The line between seniors and juniors has shifted in the last few years. There are literally 20 juniors who could take the title this year. I think the title fight is wide open and I think we could see a tight finish that could go down to the wire.”
Mistry comes into the event a clear favourite as the number one ranked player on both the junior and senior circuits. Son has also been in blistering form this season with victories on both circuits and is another prime contender.
“Kajal and Woo-Ju are definitely right up there,” says Telfer.
“They both had great seasons in 2016 to rise in the rankings and have kept themselves at the top with solid performances this year. But the players chasing Kajal and Woo-Ju have shown that they have what it takes to beat the top two. That’s what makes it so tough to call.
“Chiara won the KwaZulu-Natal Championship and challenged in the Nomads SA Girls Rose Bowl. She was also a leading amateur on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, as was Symone, Catherine and Katia (Schaff). Caitlyn made a huge impression when she led two rounds at the Curro SA Juniors International against a top notch international field. Kaiyuree had a fantastic breakthrough at the Nomads SA Girls Rose Bowl in Durban
“Casandra Hall joined the GolfRSA Elite Squad this year and she has been in threatening form, coming close in several events and this could definitely be her breakout week. But you’ve also got Zethu Myeki, who has risen to second in the senior rankings and her experience competing at the top level makes her a great candidate, as well.
“Sarah Bouch had a fantastic run at the Regional All-Africa Challenge Trophy. Danielle is sitting matric this year and playing less events, but when she needs to step it up, she does and she showed that with her win in the North West Championship.
“The list goes on and one and the experience of performing under pressure will help all of them, because the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship is all about handling the pressure. It is much more intense, but they have all shown that they can perform under that kind of pressure.”
Telfer dominated the circuit in 2016, but the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member paid the price of a limited playing schedule in her matric year last season. She slipped from the number one spot to sixth in the senior rankings and has battled to regain the form that carried her to six stroke victory at Westlake Golf Club 12 months ago.
Mistry, however, believes Telfer could make it two in a row.
“I definitely wouldn’t bet against Kaleigh,” says Mistry. “It might look like she is struggling for form on paper just because she hasn’t won yet this season.
“I played with her in Zimbabwe at the All-Africa Junior Golf Championship in March and although she made a few silly mistakes, she was very solid. She is close to her previous best and her confidence is on the rise, too. She’ll want to defend her title and I believe that if she gets going early in the championship, she will be tough to beat.”
If Mistry is the favourite, Son is definitely the dark horse for this year’s championship.
The petite Country Club Johannesburg player launched to number one in the junior rankings in 2015 and held that position until she was overhauled by Mistry at the end of last season.
However, she remains hot on Mistry’s heels in the junior rankings after pocketing three junior titles this year – including a successful title defence in the Curro SA Juniors International in March – and she ranks fourth in the senior rankings after victory in the Western Province Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship and winning the amateur title in the SA Women’s Open.
“We’ve won two SA Women Inter-Provincials with Woo-Ju and we know her well,” says Gauteng’s Telfer. “She is very talented and she has a high work ethic, but it’s her ability to produce great shots under pressure that makes her a really tough opponent.
“Woo-Ju beat about 30 pros to win the leading amateur title at the SA Women’s Open and you could see how that experience pay off in the way she won Western Province Women’s Amateur last month. She is going to excel under the pressure at the Sanlam SA Stroke Play.”