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Skarpnord takes lead in SA, R2 postponed due to weather
April 19, 2013

Marianne Skarpnord

Norway's Marianne Skarpnord carded a three-under par 69 to claim a one-shot lead after the first round of the South African Women's Open.

Skarpnord was level par after 13 holes of her round at Southbroom Golf Club in Durban, but birdied three of the last five, including the 17th and 18th to edge clear at the top of the leaderboard.

"To be honest I can’t complain because I hit a couple of sloppy shots today. I saved a really good par on 10 after hitting my drive into the hazard and saved a really good par on the first," said Skarpnord. "The greens are really good. The fairways are just a little bit wet."

English teenager Charley Hull was among seven players a shot off the lead on two under, along with home favourites Ashleigh Simon and Stacy Lee Bregman.

Hull, 17, who finished second on her professional debut in Morocco last month, carded four birdies and two bogeys after starting her round from the 10th.

A further seven players were another stroke back on one under, including English pair Emily Taylor and Rebecca Hudson, but American Cheyenne Woods - the niece of world number one Tiger Woods - could only manage a four-over 76.

Only two weeks after she could make a full swing for the first time since hip surgery, Ashleigh Simon is already challenging for a victory in the South African Women’s Open.

Simon opened with a two-under-par 70 in her first full 18 holes in almost four months and which was played in the rain at Southbroom Golf Club on Friday. It puts her in a group of players only one stroke off the three-under-par 69 lead of Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord.The weather made for a tough start to this WPGA and Ladies European Tour co-sanctioned tournament. South Africa’s Stacy Bregman started well with two straight birdies and was three under with three to play before making bogey on the seventh.

The 17-year-old English sensation Charley Hull, who was on a drip for food poisoning earlier in the week, is once again in contention after her second place finish in a tournament in Morocco last month. She also signed for a two-under 70. Germany’s Nina Holleder came with a late charge, including a two on the par-four sixth hole, on her way to a 70. And Finland’s Minea Blomqvist, Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth and American Katie Burnett also finished the day on two under.

But Simon’s 70 was one of the more impressive on the day. The South African was three under through seven holes before the one bad swing she made all day cost her with a double bogey on the par-three 17th with a tee shot into the water. But she responded with another birdie thereafter in what counts as a remarkable achievement considering she wasn’t even sure she would be ready for this tournament.

“I’m really happy. I only started hitting balls two weeks ago, and my coach and I have kept it pretty simple in terms of my recovery because I’m not 100% strong yet on my left side,” said Simon, who won this tournament in 2004 and 2007.

While her doctors doubted her ability to play this week, her coach, Doug Wood, certainly felt she was ready. “She has got such a strong mind. I never doubted she could do it,” he said.

Simon was told last August that she would have to undergo hip surgery. “I had this constant ache in my hip and down my leg. I had just started to play really well in Europe when I had to quit,” she said.

But the break was a blessing, giving Simon a much-needed break from the game. From her days as the child prodigy of South African women’s golf, the 23-year-old has had little time for herself.

“In the first six weeks I didn’t really miss the game at all. I’ve been doing this since I was 13 years old and needed a break. A break just does you good and reassures that this is what you want to do and gets that hunger back. Lately I’ve been at the point where I never wanted to hit balls so much in my life as now.”

Not being able to make a full swing has benefitted Simon in that she’s developed an even better short game. “I’ve worked really hard on my short game, and that paid off today. If I was ever in trouble my short game saved me.”

Bregman was equally solid on a difficult day, and is benefitting from the work she is doing with Dr Sherylle Calder, the vision specialist who transformed Ernie Els’s putting.

“It was very tough out there. I’ve never played 18 holes in constant rain in South Africa before. But it was still possible to score. I’ve been working with Dr Calder and she’s really helped out.”


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