It took a four-year golf scholarship at the University of Arkansas in the US to convince Cara Gorlei that she not only had it in her to become a top player, but was also part of a new generation of South African woman golfers ready to fly the country’s flag across the globe.
Gorlei (23) recently returned from the US and has closed the book on a glittering amateur career and is now taking the first steps towards becoming a professional.
In the same week she revealed this, Casandra Hall competed against several other Sunshine Ladies’ Tour professionals in the men’s Vodacom Origins of Golf, where women were playing their own concurrent competition for their own prize money as part of the men’s Sunshine Tour’s efforts to support the growth of women’s golf.
Hall (20) won by a staggering nine shots. Next month, she’ll tee off in the first stage of the Ladies’ European Tour’s Qualifying School.
Suddenly, South African women’s golf has two bright young professionals not only eager to make their mark, but with the confidence of expecting to do so, following in the steps of Nobuhle Dlamini, Lee-Anne Pace, Ashleigh Buhai, Stacy Bregman and others in the pro ranks.
“I think women’s golf talent in South Africa has come through in stages. Recently, we had Ashleigh Buhai and Lee-Anne Pace, and that group of players. We’ve had a bit of a lull and age gap now. But hopefully we can start a new era of good players representing South Africa on tour,” said Gorlei.
She recently made an attempt at an LPGA Tour card. She made it through the first cut in the first stage of the qualifying school, but then shot 79 in the final round to miss progressing to the second stage.
“I was the only South African to make the first cut. My game is in good shape and I know that, if I try again, I’ll make it. In my time in the US, I learnt a lot about playing other tours. I learnt to trust the belief other people have in me. Once I was over there and started doing well, I kind of surprised myself. It boosted my confidence a lot. I learnt that if I just put in the hard work, I would definitely make it.
“My University of Arkansas coach, Shauna Taylor, played a lot on tour and she has been telling me to just believe in myself and I will win out there. On the college golf scene, you play against the top amateurs in the world on some of the top courses in the world. You have the best coaches and facilities and you just learn so much. I feel if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be so confident to go on to the tour right now.”
Hall has similar aspirations. “I’ve been working towards going to the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School with the confidence to know that, when I go there, I can very well secure a card.
“The biggest change in my game has been mental. I’ve basically got the mind-set that anything the golf course throws at me I can handle.”
There’s no doubt that this next generation of professionals is entering the arena with their own very high expectations of performing at the highest level.