Ashleigh Simon: A winner off and on the course

2014-03-09 14:00

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In a rare gesture, Ashleigh Simon has paid tribute to her caddy/boyfriend David Buhai as the driving force behind her resurgence on the golf course.

Simon, who campaigns on the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) in the US, won the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg last Friday.

On Tuesday, she added another feather to her golfing cap by claiming her second successive Sunshine Ladies Tour title – the Ladies Tshwane Open at the Els Club Copperleaf.

She pocketed R100?000 for her victory, which came when tournament director Paul van Meerbergen was forced to call an 18-hole result when the course was water-logged and unplayable because of heavy rain.

Simon’s Johannesburg feat came as she registered a nine-under-par 135 to be four shots clear of fellow Ladies European Tour campaigner Stacy-Lee Bregman and the current number one, Lee-Anne Pace, by five strokes.

But the 24-year-old Simon has acknowleged her lover, Buhai, the man who has been carrying her golf bag for the past five years since the couple became an item in 2007.

The caddy is a mere three-handicapper who only plays socially at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

He will carry Simon’s heavy golf bag throughout the tour and read the putting greens for his “boss”.

“My boyfriend is quite a professional in his own right in that he doesn’t want our affair to interfere with my game,” explains Simon.

“During tournaments, he concentrates strictly on my game. It’s only when I am not heavily involved in tournaments that we take time to discuss matters of the heart as lovers.”

The Johannesburg-based Simon, who earned her tour card in December to play in the US, says they have been travelling overseas together whenever she is on tour.

“Our partnership is intact and we’d like to keep it that way. My dad, Mike, who got me started in golf when I was only six, is happy with how I handle my professional life,” said Simon, who turned professional at 18.

She won the 2007 Catalonia Ladies Masters in Spain.

In 2011, she claimed the ISPS Handa Portugal Ladies Open in Lisbon.

Last year, she underwent hip surgery, which she says significantly affected her career.

“I had a piece of bone on my socket which bothered me for the better part of the year. This has been fixed now and my golf career is back in full swing,” said Simon.

She said she would be leaving with her beau for the US next week, where she will spend three months campaigning in LPGA events.

The first tournament will be the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona, from March 20 to 23, followed by the Kia Classic at Carlsbad in California.

Simon and her boyfriend are not the only couple setting the trend on the golf stage.

Thomas Aiken had his wife, Kate, caddying temporarily for him when he won the Africa Open title on the European Tour in East London in February.

And there could be many more such partners out there on our courses in future.

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