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Monday, February 6, 2023

Sunshine Ladies Tour celebrates decade with exciting 2023 schedule

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Reigning AIG Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai will headline the 30th Investec South African Women’s Open when the Sunshine Ladies Tour celebrates its 10th anniversary with an action-packed season in 2023.

Buhai, who became the SA’s second women’s major champion with her Muirfield triumph in August, finished her international season in style with a gritty one-stroke victory in the Women’s Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club over the weekend.

It is entirely fitting that the pride of SA women’s golf will return to the fairways she forged her career upon as the Sunshine Ladies Tour celebrates a decade as Africa’s principal platform for professional women golfers and development conduit for amateurs coming through the ranks.

Buhai, the only amateur winner of the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s flagship event, will be targeting a fourth victory in March.

ALSO READ: SA women are doing it for themselves as Ashleigh Buhai secures stunning Australian Open victory

The world number 28 won her first SA Women’s Open title at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington in 2004 and was still an amateur when she repeated the feat at Durban Country Club three years later.

In 2018, the year Investec became the title sponsor of the national open, Buhai made it a hat-trick of wins with her first professional victory in the event and her third on Ladies European Tour.

The new season will tee off from 1-3 February at Sun City. The homegrown talent will go head-to-head with the first international campaigners to hit SA shores in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge, and the R1.3million season-opener will be contested at the world-renowned Gary Player Country Club.

Next, the circuit heads to Fancourt for the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am.

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The 10th edition of the tournament from 10-12 February will be another milestone worthy of celebration, and to mark the occasion, the purse has been bumped from R600 000 to a staggering R2.5m. In addition, the leading 10 teams on the final day will fight it out for the lion’s share of the R100 000 prize pot in the Betterball Pro-Am Competition.

In previous editions of the popular Sunshine Ladies Tour, which is played concurrent with the Sunshine and Challenge Tour’s co-sanctioned Dimension Data Pro-Am, the first two rounds were played at the nearby George Golf Club and the final round at Fancourt. This year all three rounds will be contested at the Outeniqua and Montagu courses.

Atlantic Beach Links in the Cape will host its first Sunshine Ladies Tour event with the R400 000 Cape Town Ladies Open from 15-17 February. The City of Cape Town, who has hosted the Investec SA Women’s Open since 2018, has supported the event since 2015.

The former home of the Investec SA Open, Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale, will welcome back the fifth edition of the Jabra Ladies Classic from 22-24 March. The winner of the Jabra Ladies Classic receives an invitation to compete in the Jabra Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour.

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The Joburg Ladies Open, returns to Modderfontein Golf Club from 1-4 March.

The first Ladies European Tour stop in SA boasts a significant bump in prize money – from €250 000 to €300 000 – making this event a hugely attractive drawcard for local golfers with aspirations to play in Europe, and the international contenders targeting an early advantage on the season-long Race to Costa del Sol.

The Investec SA Women’s Open will draw the curtain on the 2023 season from 8 -11 March.

This 72-hole event will be played at the picturesque Steenberg Golf Club for a second successive year, and the field will be competing for an increased purse of €320 000 (over R5.9m), thanks to the investment by Investec and the City of Cape Town.

“We are extremely excited for this 10th season of the Sunshine Ladies Tour,” said Thomas Abt, Sunshine Tour Commissioner. “The Sunshine Ladies Tour has grown into an attractive product and together with our partners, we will continue to grow this circuit for the benefit of our members.

“We are delighted to have committed sponsors who have gone the distance with us, and partners such as the Ladies European Tour with whom our flagship events, the Joburg Ladies Open and the Investec South African Women’s Open, are co-sanctioned.

“The success of the Sunshine Ladies Tour has been unfathomable. Participation has increased tenfold, especially with international participation and the prize money has more than quadrupled from what was on offer in our first season. And the knock-on effect for our rising amateurs has been fantastic, with many of our young golfers now flourishing on the international stage and US collegiate circuit.”

The pathway the Sunshine Ladies Tour provides for young golfers to the bigger global circuits is best illustrated by 2022 Investec Order of Merit champion Linn Grant.

The 23-year-old began her 2022 season in SA. She racked up victories in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am, the Jabra Ladies Classic and the Joburg Ladies Open and won the season-long points race. Building on this incredible start on the Ladies European Tour, Linn became the first female golfer to win on the DP World Tour in June, won the LET Rookie of the Year title and recently capped her season as the winner of the LET Race to Costa del Sol.

Throughout the 2023 season, the Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners will vie for glory in the points-based ranking system.

The top three professionals on the final Investec Order of Merit will gain automatic entry into the 2024 Investec SA Women’s Open, and the winner receives a bonus prize worth R200 000. Should the winner of the 2023 Investec SA Women’s Open be a South African, she will be rewarded with the Investec Homegrown Award, worth R100 000.

“We are proud to continue to give our talented women in sport a platform to showcase their talent through our partnership with the Sunshine Ladies Tour and Ladies European Tour, and to ensure that these golfers are recognised for their dedication and given opportunities to excel,” Peta Dixon, Investec’s head of sponsorships, said.

“It has been very exciting to witness the growth of the local women’s professional circuit over the last decade and to empower women through sport. We are delighted to be part of the journey to grow Africa’s premier women’s professional golf circuit and through our investment in four of South Africa’s rising talents in Nicole Garcia, Stacy Bregman, Lejan Lewthwaite and Zethu Myeki.”

Alexandra Armas, chief executive officer of the Ladies European Tour, said the LET is delighted to once again feature two premier events in SA on their 2023 schedule.

“We welcome the opportunity for international competition for our members, and we are very proud of our strong, longstanding relationship with the Sunshine Ladies Tour. Two co-sanctioned events on our global schedule strengthens our goal of providing competitive opportunities for our members on all the continents,” Armas said.

“Our sincere thanks to the Cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town and Investec for their incredible commitment. These events not only benefit our members, but undoubtedly also positively impact on participation and interest in the women’s game in Africa.”

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