Former South African Women’s Open champion Tandi von Ruben claimed her fourth professional victory at the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Sun International Challenge, after edging top SA amateur Magda Kruger with a birdie at the first play-off hole at Lost City.
The leading pair both shot one-under-par 71s and, nine holes into the final round, were still entangled in an intense head-to-head battle.
Kruger opened the door for Von Ruben with bogeys at the 11th and 13th and the lanky blonde pro pulled three shots clear when the Zwartkops amateur three-putted the 14th for another bogey.
But, after both players parred the 15th, the petite Kruger launched a feisty comeback with three birdies on the trot to catch up to Von Ruben, matching her 72 and forcing the play-off.
Both players ended the regulation 36 holes on one-under-par 143, but it was on the return to the par-five 18th for the second time that the Ladies European Tour campaigner showcased her talent and secured her victory.
“I missed the fairway left, so I laid up and hit my third to 10 foot,” Von Ruben explained. “I knocked the putt in for birdie but Magda missed hers from six foot.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be in the winner’s circle again. This victory hasn’t come easy; I’ve had to work for it because Magda was a gritty opponent. It was almost a pity that she didn’t extend the play-off, because we had such a great battle out there.”
Von Ruben, who had nine straight pars on the back nine, said her swing was on song.
“The key to my success this week was my driving, but I putted decently, too,” she said. “I’ve been hitting it really straight and that gave me the advantage, but I had nine straight pars coming home, so I need a little more from the putter.”
The champion was full of praise for sponsor and host Sun International, and is extremely excited about the rest of the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
“This was a fantastic event and the course was in superb shape, just as you would come to expect at Sun City,” Von Ruben said.
“Now I am really motivated to make the Investec Cup for Ladies and go for the big prize. I know I will have some stiff competition, but after this battle and lifting the trophy, I am really looking forward to the rest of the Tour.”
Kruger, who already visited the podium this season when she won the Eastern Province Stroke Play Championship a week ago, was equally thrilled with her improved performance.
“I was really disappointed with my performance in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton,” the GFG Academy golfer said. “It’s such a great course and I thought I would do a lot better, but in the end I let myself down with poor course management and putting.
“This week was much better. I felt more in control and definitely putted better. I’m also really proud of the fact that I didn’t lose my head out there when I had the bogeys on the back nine.
“In the past I’ve struggled to get past bad shots, but this time, I kept my composure and I got myself back into the fight. It was great playing against Tandi; she is an exceptional golfer and a real inspiration for us amateurs.”
Francesca Cuturi and amateur Monja Richards both shot two under 70s, with Cuturi finishing third on 145 and Richards one stroke back on 146.
Italy’s Sophie Sandolo (74), Nicole Garcia from South Africa (73) and Michaela Fletcher (72) - the leading amateur at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton - shared fifth on 147.
The Sunshine Ladies Tour next travels to the beautiful Garden Route for the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am, where Ladies European Tour winners Lee-Anne Pace and Ashleigh Simon from South Africa and Anne-Lise Caudal from France will join the action at the Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa from 22-23 February.
Final Result from the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Sun International Challenge, played at the par-72 Lost City Golf Course at Sun City, played on Monday, 17 February 2014.
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as (AMA).
143 Tandi von Ruben 71 72 * (play-off win at first hole)
143 Magda Kruger (AMA) 71 72
145 Francesca Cuturi 75 70
146 Monja Richards (AMA) 76 70
147 Michaela Fletcher (AMA) 75 72; Nicole Garcia 74 73; Sophie Sandolo (ITA) 73 74
149 Mandy Adamson 78 71; Morgana Robbertze 78 71
150 Mae Cornforth (AMA) 72 78
151 Laurette Maritz 79 72; Holly Aitchison (ENG) 75 76; Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 74 77
152 Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 80 72; Kim Williams 79 73; Tijana Kraljevic 75 77
153 Crizelda van Niekerk 78 75; Nicole Becker 76 77
154 Michelle Swanepoel (AMA) 80 74; Jacqui Akers (AMA) 77 77; Monique Smit 77 77
155 Maggie Yuan (AUS) 80 75; Cecilie Lundgreen (NOR) 79 76; Nora Kagonyera (SWE) 76 79
156 Lauren Blease (ENG) 78 78; Nicola Eaton 78 78
157 Henriette Frylinck 80 77
158 Caryn Louw 80 78
160 Alana van Greuning 84 76; Michelle Leigh 81 79; Chiara Contomathios (AMA) 80 80
161 Chevonne Botha (AMA) 86 75
162 Rachel Drummond (ENG) 82 80; Uloma Mbuko (NGR) 81 81
164 Katia Shaff (AMA) 84 80; Carmia van Wyk (AMA) 82 82
165 Alra van den Berg 86 79
166 Michelle de Vries 84 82
167 Iliska Verwey 86 81; Casandra Hall (AMA) 83 84
169 Kirsten Campbell (AMA) 82 87