Western Province golfer Cara Gorlei edged out Kaleigh Telfer from Gauteng in Sunday's 36-hole seeding round to take the top spot in the draw for the Sanlam SA Women's Amateur Championship at Stellenbosch Golf Club.
Gorlei opened with a three-over-par 75 in the frosty morning conditions. She lagged three off the pace from South Africa's number one ranked Kajal Mistry, while Telfer was two behind the reigning Sanlam SA Women's Stroke Play champion.
She fired 70 in the final round, though, to tie Telfer for the lead at one-over-par 144 and was declared the winner on a count-out over the back nine.
The stroke play qualifier serves as a seeding tournament for the main match play championship from today to Wednesday and the field should consider Gorlei's victory a warning shot.
The 21-year-old Milnerton golfer was knocked out in the second round after she won the seeding qualifier at Kloof in 2015. Last year she reached the final, but lost to Lumien Orton from Free State.
Gorlei hopes to land the title of women's amateur golf's flagship event before she heads back to the USA to start her third year of her golf scholarship and she is even more confident of her chances this year.
Gorlei has been a steady contributor in her first two seasons at the University of Arkansas and racked up three top 10 finishes this year. In May, the former GolfRSA Elite Squad member became just the second Arkansas Razorback since Major champion Stacy Lewis in 2007 to represent the University of Arkansas at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship.
Drawn alongside Mistry and fourth ranked Danielle du Toit from Gauteng North, Gorlei said it gave her an excellent opportunity to suss out her main competition.
'Danielle won the Liberty GNGU Women's Open Stroke Play and Kajal finished second last Monday and on Wednesday, Kajal beat Danielle for the Match Play title,' she said.
'They are both in great form, so I was happy to be drawn with them, because it gave me a chance to gauge what I'm up against this week. My distance will definitely be an advantage, because I out-drove both of them by at least 40 metres. I'm also hitting my long irons well and my short game is sharp, too. It's just the putter that needs to come to the party.
'I don't think my mind-set was on the putting, because I wasn't as sharp as usual. I missed a lot of short putts. If I got the read, I left them short or stroked the ball past the hole and if I got the stroke right, I had the line wrong.'
But Gorlei judged the pace and the lines perfectly at the final two holes, though. 'I had 86 yards in at 17 and nearly holed out for an eagle,' she said.'I hit a soft sand-wedge to two inches from the cup and tapped in for birdie. At the 18th, I hit an easy gap-wedge in from 107 yards and the ball pitched half a foot from the hole and rolled to a foot.
'To finish birdie-birdie was great; kind of signals that my head was back in the game. But I'll work with the putter in the morning, because you need your A-game. There are no do-overs or second chances in match play.'
Like Mistry, Telfer is also hunting the elusive double.
The Bryanston golfer, who will be taking up a golf scholarship at Auburn University in August, won the Sanlam SA Women's Stroke Play Championship at Westlake in 2016.
'This is a risk and reward golf course, so you can go for it depending on what your opponent's doing,' said Telfer, who carded rounds of 74 and 71.'I really want to finish strong before I leave for the United States, so I'm looking forward to start of the match play and I made start I was hoping for.'
Rounds of 72 and 75 earned Mistry a share of third at three over with lanky Namibian Jessica Dreesbeimdieke and Bianca Lohbauer from Paarl, another US collegiate player at Troy University.
'We had all four seasons out there,' said Mistry.'Icy cold this morning and pouring rain. Sun during the first round and fierce wind in the final round, and then the rain came down again.
'You've got to set yourself up with your drives here, and you have to focus on every shot. I'm feeling good about my game; I just need to settle down to the conditions.'
The top 14 players in the stroke play all have byes into the second round of the match play.
Seeding Stroke Play Qualifier Result
145 - Cara Gorlei 75 70 (count-out)
145 - Kaleigh Telfer 74 71
147 - Jessica Dreesbeimdieke 76 71; Bianca Lohbauer 73 74; Kajal Mistry 72 75
150 - Danielle du Toit 76 74
151 - Kaylah Williams 78 73
152 - Symone Henriques 79 73; Crystal Beukes 76 76
153 - Gabrielle Venter 77 76; Vicki Traut 74 79
154 - Kaiyuree Moodley 78 76; Bianca Wernich 76 78
155 - Chiara Contomathios 76 79; Lindi Coetzee 75 80
156 - Larissa du Preez 80 76; Natasha Carlsson 77 79
157 - Lynette Fourie 79 78; Caro Els 77 80
158 - Sarah Bouch 80 78; Katia Shaff 80 78
159 - Chante Van Zyl 82 77; Zethu Myeki 77 82
160 - Ethel Ruthenberg 81 79; Kelsey Nicholas 80 80
161 - Nina Grey 82 79; Cara Ford 78 83
162 - Jordan Rothman 83 79
163 - Cassidy Williams 80 83
165 - Lynne Behagg 80 85
166 - Annalie Swanepoel 83 83
167 - Laylaah Abrahams 86 81
168 - Elsune Roode 83 85
171 - Aaliyah Abrahams 90 81; Lizzie Currie 89 82; Jessica Green 84 87
173 - Megan Streicher 87 86
174 - Cherylynn Croome 86 88
178 - Megan O'Grady 92 86; Cleo Jordaan 87 91
179 - Shani Brynard 98 81; Petrone Rudolph 94 85
180 - Iman Adams 94 86; Talli De Wet 90 90
182 - Odette Booysen 92 90; Ciara Koekemoer 90 92
184 - La-Eeqah Adams 87 97
186 - Annerie Coetzee 93 93
188 - Senayah Moodliar 96 92
197 - Monique Jansen 104 93