The Ladies European Tour kicked off their season in Kenya with Aditi Ashok dominating for her fourth LET title.
Report from the LET
Aditi Ashok triumphed at the 2023 Magical Kenya Ladies Open winning the tournament by nine shots to secure her fourth LET title.
The two-time Olympian produced the wire-to-wire victory at Vipingo Ridge where a round of 74 (+1) on the final day was enough for the win.
It was a tough afternoon for the 24-year-old as she made three bogeys and two birdies on day four, but Ashok had put in the hard work in earlier in the week to win.
“It has been a great week, it’s proof to myself that my off-season and hard work has paid off,” said Ashok.
“It was just hard to get that shot out of my mind, I think that hole [the eighth] doesn’t suit my eye so I didn’t play it that well today, but after that I think I got back into my rhythm and just kept hitting fairways and greens. I think the last few holes, I didn’t make many good swings but it’s okay, I guess!
“That was cool to have the giraffes there, it’s definitely different and part of the experience of playing in Kenya. It was cool to see giraffes – I don’t think I’ve ever seen them that close before.”
First LET win in six years
It is Ashok’s first trip to the winner’s circle on the LET since the 2017 Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open and she paid tribute to father Gudlamani, who was on the bag once again, as well as to her team back at home.
She added: “It was good to have my Dad on the bag – three of my wins have been with him caddying, but not just him there’s my mum back home and I have worked a lot with my coach and my fitness team.
“All of us have put in a lot of work over two months just to get back to my original strength level and this is the first week I’ve felt like I’ve been back to where I was a couple of years ago which is pretty good.”
England’s Alice Hewson and Thailand’s April Angurasaranee finished in a tie for second place on three-under-par in the LET season-opener.
LET winner Hewson, who finished 12th in the 2022 Race to Costa del Sol, ended her week with a round of 72 (-1) to move up the leaderboard and into the runners-up spot.
“It’s been a really enjoyable first trip to Kenya, I loved the golf course and quite enjoyed playing in the wind,” said Hewson.
“It required a little bit of creativity out there, I definitely hit a lot of fade shots coming in and holding it against the wind and I think that was a good way to try and get close to some of those flags out there.
“It definitely feels good to come out of off-season and hit the ground running. I feel very happy with where my game is and where it is headed and I’m happy to be here.
“Kenya has been a really incredible country; everyone has been so welcoming. Seeing all the animals out on the golf course is always helpful, we’ve had a thoroughly good time and I couldn’t have asked for a better week to start the year.”
Needing a top-10 finish
Thailand’s Angurasaranee has a difficult final day carding a round of four-over, but it was still enough to finish T2 and have an excellent start to her rookie year on the LET.
She explained: “It was not the last round that I wanted, but this week has been so far beyond my expectations. Coming into the week, I needed a top 10 to go to Morocco next week and finishing tied for second is amazing.
“I was just trying to be myself out there and try to hit good drives and good shots and make as many putts as I could without being overly needy. I was just trying to stay as myself and play golf and have fun.
“This is my second or third time in the last group and playing with Aditi and watching her play and her shots was an incredible experience.”
Australia’s Gabriela Ruffels finished in fourth place on two-under-par, with Japan’s Yuri Onishi and Finland’s Noora Komulainen in T5 on level par.
LET rookies Sara Kjellker of Sweden and Amalie Leth-Nissen of Denmark ended the tournament in T7 on two-over-par.
While eight players finished in a share of ninth place with Belgium’s Manon De Roey, Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord, France’s Emma Grechi, Spain’s Marta Sanz Barrio, Italy’s Virginia Elena Carta, Indian amateur Avani Prashanth, Wales’ Becky Morgan and England’s Cara Gainer all on three-over.
In the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol, Ashok sits at the top of the standings after the season-opener having collected all 500 points with Hewson and Angurasaranee each on 275 points.
The LET now moves to Morocco and the Lalla Meryem Cup.
Ras Al Khaimah Championship win for Gavins
Daniel Gavins holed a 25-foot double-bogey putt to win the Ras Al Khaimah Championship to earn his second DP World Tour victory.
The Englishman's second DP World Tour victory came 18 months after his first at the 2021 ISPS Handa World Invitational.
Gavins began the 18th with a two-shot lead over Alexander Bjork but then found the water, not once but twice, before sinking a putt for a double-bogey to end on 17-under-par.
Bjork bogeyed the last to finish on 16-under-par and 54-hole leader Zander Lombard was unable to finish with an eagle to force a play-off and matched Bjork at 16-under-par.
The 31-year-old said of his victory:
"I am pretty speechless. I thought [I had thrown it away]. I put two in the water and thought 'that's one way to end the tournament'.
"I have been struggling off the tee for the last two weeks, I've been battling, and it was a difficult hole to go through. Fortunately I holed out! I thought I was holing it for a play-off. I didn't realise Bjork had made bogey.
"When I sunk the putt and then went to the back of the green and saw that I was actually winning still, it was kind of a big shock.
"I was pretty relaxed all day even though my swing off the tee wasn't great. I obviously felt it a lot on the 18th but other than that it was pretty calm."
The DP World Tour now moves to Asia and the Singapore Classic.
Smith follows in Green's footsteps
Report from WPGA Tour of Australasia
Sarah Jane Smith broke a long drought and added her name to the growing list of women to have beaten the men in Webex Players Series events with a brilliant close-out performance at Cobram Barooga in the TPS Murray River tournament.
The Victorian-born, Florida-based professional played magnificent golf under pressure on the final day, shooting a six-under-par 65 to win by five shots.
It is her first win as a professional since 2008 in New York on the secondary American tour, back in a time when she played as Sarah Jane Kenyon, before her marriage to Duane Smith and the arrival of their three-year-old son, Theo, who watched her eclipse of the field over the weekend.
“I think you appreciate it anyway, but after the couple of years I’ve had on the course, it’s just extra special,” she said.
Three of eight iterations of the event have now been won by women – Hannah Green at Cobram Barooga last year, Min A Yoon from South Korea at Rosebud last weekend, and now the 38-year-old Smith.
Smith shot 63-65 on the weekend to finish at 20-under-par overall, five ahead of Victorian Andrew Martin and Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb at 15-under-par, while overnight joint leader Matias Sanchez faded to outright fourth at 14-under-par.
Alexander wins SuperSport Ladies Challenge
Report from Sunshine Ladies Tour
Casandra Alexander signed off in style on Friday with a closing birdie on the 18th at Gary Player Country Club to cruise to a six-shot victory in the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s season-opener, the SuperSport Ladies Challenge presented by Sun International.
“I really didn’t want to miss the birdie putt in front of all those people,” laughed Alexander afterwards.
“I only had eight-iron in, but when the pin is tucked left and there’s water all around, anywhere on the green is good. I had 45 metres for the eagle, and I still left it short after hitting it as hard as I could.”
The victory starts her 2023 season in the best way possible after a solid 30th place on the Ladies European Tour’s Race to Costa del Sol last year.
The 2021 Joburg Ladies Open champion said the skipped the European circuit’s season-opener in Kenya, because she enjoys the Gary Player layout and wanted to start the season well.
“Of course, we all want the W, but sometimes winning is out of your hands,” she said. “I just wanted to start out with a strong showing so that I can feel good about going into the next Ladies European Tour event, and the co-sanctioned tournaments later on in the season here in South Africa.”
The local circuit travels to the Southern Cape next for the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am.
The event received a mammoth bump in prize money – from R600 000 to R2.5-million and will this year will be contested on the Outeniqua and Montagu courses at Fancourt, running concurrently with the Sunshine and Challenge Tours’ Dimension Data Pro-Am.
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