Olivia Mehaffey’s rough start to the 2023 LET campaign continues as she carded a seven-over round of 70 at the Investec South African Women’s Open at Steenberg Golf Club in Cape Town.
Despite missing the cut at the previous week’s Jo’burg Ladies Open, she’d shown promising signs as she improved in round two, but ultimately fell shy of the 36-hole chop, and she was returning to a course and event where she’d posted a T18 finish on debut the year prior.
But a bogey at the tenth – her first – put her under the gun early, and though she’d get back to level-par with a birdie at the 13th, double bogeys on 15 and 17 saw her make the turn at +4 in ideal scoring conditions as provisional scores elsewhere seemed to suggest.
She’d bogey three more on the front side, eventually signing for a 79 that leaves her well down the leaderboard and in need or something extra special in tomorrow’s second round if she’s to make it to the weekend.
On International Women’s Day, it was 16-year-old German sensation Chiara Noja who stole the show after the teenager shot an astonishing course-record 10-under-par to move to the top of the leaderboard. Nine birdies, an eagle and a solitary bogey made up her round, as she set a blistering pace that not only brought the accolade of first-round-leader, but broke the course record to boot.
Noja leads South African native and 2022 AIG Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai by two with Johanna Gustavsson, Nastasia Nadaud and Romy Meekers two further back in a three-way tie for third.
Noja, who turns 17 next week, is hoping for her first full-field LET victory having already taken the spoils at the Aramco Team Series event in Jeddah last Autumn.
“I think it was pretty consistent golf in general,” said Noja afterwards. “I didn’t feel like I was swinging it incredibly well all day.
“I put myself in a good position for birdies, my putting was definitely good and to hole some of those putts was really good.
“My wedges were on point and I think that’s what we’ll try to do going into the next few days. Depending on the wind, we’ll see exactly how much we will need to go under par.”
And being still so young in her professional career, Noja worked hard on adding new shots to her bag over the off-season.
“Over the winter I’ve done a lot of wedge work and a lot of the shots that I’ve learned to hit over this week and the start of the season I didn’t have in the bag last year.
“There’s growth in that sense and also trusting myself a little better. I learned that in Jeddah last year and I’m trying to commit to everything and not be afraid to fail.”
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