Sun City - Lejan Lewthwaite fired three birdies over her last four holes on Tuesday for a six-under-par 66, and the joint first round lead in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge hosted by Sun International at Sun City.
As play wrapped up at the Lost City Golf Course, the Benoni golfer found herself surrounded by former champions of the Sunshine Ladies Tour event.
Lewthwaite shares the top spot with 2015 winner Stacy Bregman and the Investec-backed pair lead by one shot from Tandi McCallum, who claimed the inaugural title in 2014.
Bregman and McCallum both celebrated their victories at Sun City, while Scotland’s Jane Turner and Nobuhle Dlamini from Eswatini – lurking a further stroke adrift – were the respective champions at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club in 2019 and 2019.
“I hadn’t realised; that is quite something. Hopefully a good omen for me,” Lewthwaite laughed.
After finishing a frustrating fifth in the season-opening Cape Town Ladies Open last week, the 28-year-old spent some quality time with her putter, and credited an improvement on the greens as key to her low scoring round.
“I have been striking the ball really well since last year, but I was just not holing putts in Cape Town. Thankfully that changed. The time I spent with the flat-stick definitely paid off,” said Lewthwaite, who racked up four birdies from the fourth hole to turn four-under and reeled in four more coming home.
“I started off slowly with a couple of pars, but once the first birdie putt dropped, I started thinking I’ve got this. I holed some long putts; I holed some short ones. The birdies just kept on coming.”
She also hit some pin-seeking irons to set herself up for a good score.
“Not much wrong with the game today. I think I missed just two greens. On one I made a great up-and-down to save par, the one not so much. I hit back with birdies on 15 and 16, though, so I was able to bounce back from the double on 14,” she said.
On the back of her maiden win in the SA Women’s Masters last year, Lewthwaite spent the season in Europe where she secured her Ladies European Tour (LET) card for the 2020 season with a top 80 Order of Merit finish.
“It would be great if I could once or twice this season here in South Africa. I hope to peak at the Investec SA Women’s Open in March, because we have so many incentives to play for,” she said. “The winner gets spots in the AEG British Women’s Open and the Evian Championship, and exemption on the LET until the end of 2021. Plus a strong performance in Cape Town would mean a leg-up on the LET Order of Merit this year. That is really valuable.”
Bregman is also targeting a return to the winner’s circle.
The five-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion got it to six-under through 15 holes, but let one slip on the par four 16th before closing out with a birdie for her 66. “I’m really stoked after this round. I played really superb golf. I gave myself a lot of chances and I made them,” said Bregman, whose last success came in the 2018 Canon Tshwane Ladies Open. “Compared to last week in Cape Town, I struck the ball really well today and was wedging it really close. I also holed a few longer putts that kept the moment going. Everything was on point.”
The Country Club Johannesburg golfer is looking forward to taking an on-song game to the Gary Player Country Club for the second round.
“Both courses are superb. You can’t fault them. The greens at the Lost City are probably not as quick as the Gary Player Country Club, but on both courses they run very true. The Gary Player is just always that little bit more challenging off the tees, but I’m looking forward to it.”
GolfRSA Elite Squad member Kaiyuree Moodley – fresh from helping Team Annika to a top five finish in the 2020 Major Champions Invitation in the United States – leads the amateur challenge on two-under.
The former Youth Olympian shares sixth with French golfer Emie Peronnin and Lindi Coetzee.
Lee-Anne Pace, who claimed her 25th career title in the Cape Town Ladies Open last week, opened with a one-under 71 to finish in a six-way tie for ninth with, among others rookies Zethu Myeki and Michaela Fletcher.
First Round Scores
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA
66 - Lejan Lewthwaite, Stacy Bregman
67 - Tandi McCallum
68 - Jane Turner (SCO), Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ)
70 - Lindi Coetzee, Kaiyuree Moodley AMA, Emie Peronnin (FRA)
71 - Michaela Fletcher, Zethu Myeki, Larissa Du Preez AMA, Hannah Arnold (USA), Lee-Anne Pace, Kim Williams
72 - Catherine Lau, Woo-Ju Son (KOR), Nicole Garcia, Kyle Roig (PUR), Casandra Hall
73 - Marion Duvernay (FRA)
74 - Shawnelle de Lange, Cara Gorlei, Tara Griebenow, Monique Smit, Bonita Bredenhann (NAM), Astrid Vayson De Pradenne (FRA), Lenanda van der Watt
75 - Jordy LaBarbera (USA), Brittney-Fay Berger
76 - Clara Pietri (SUI), Francesca Cuturi
77 - Yolanda Duma
78 - Lauren Taylor (ENG), Kim de Klerk AMA, Chiara Contomathios
79 - Georgia Oboh (NGA)
80 - Tijana Kraljevic
81 - Pasqualle Coffa (NED)
82 - Christina Gloor (SUI), Flora Peuch (FRA), Ivanna Samu, Carmen Taljaard AMA
83 - Lynette Fourie
86 - Siviwe Duma, Jessica Dreesbeimdieke (NAM)
87 - Lauren Blease (ENG)
91 - Sunelle von Molendorff