Mixed fortunes for Walsh and Mahaffey on a tough day one in Jo’burg

Kevin Kent

Lauren Walsh (Photo: Tristan Jones/LET)

Kevin Kent

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It was a bruising opening day at Modderfontein Golf Club as the course showed its teeth and fewer than a quarter of the field would manage to card scores under par. Not fazed by this, the early pace was set by Thailand’s April Angurasaranee who took the course head on. Nine birdies in an impressive opening round sees her sit two clear at the top on -6. A group of six players including ’24 Tour winner, Singapore’s Shannon Tan sit on -4 heading into Friday, just behind the overnight leader. Reigning champion Lilly May Humphreys was one of those to feel the force of Modderfontein today, going around in +7 and leaving herself with work to do to salvage any hope of retaining her crown.

Lauren Walsh got underway in the morning groups and was soon into her stride, opening with par-birdie on her first two holes. Her approach play was strong all day, but she struggled to hit the fairways through the middle section of her outward nine, but, a birdie on the par-5 5th managed to cancel out a bogey on her previous hole and she’d make the turn on one-under.

Mixed fortunes throughout her back nine saw struggles with the irons, although her game off the tee improved as the day wore on. Bogey on the par-3 11th was quickly recovered on the next hole, testament to Walsh’s battling, but there would be one further bogey on the 15th to see the Castlewarden rookie finish her first day on level-par for the tournament. A solid start on a tricky course that was punishing mistakes with some big numbers carded in the clubhouse.

Spare a thought for South African, Gabrielle Venter. Two-triples, a double and five single bogeys would see her finish on +11 after a chastening round.

Mehaffey kicked off her week in the afternoon session and quickly found herself in an uphill battle. Starting on the back-nine, she began with a bogey on the par-5 10th, and this would start a run of five in her first six holes. As was seen elsewhere this course could inflict problems so her birdie on the par-4 16th was welcome to steady the ship. Two more pars would see her turn on +4 and look to regain ground on her back nine, featuring three par-5s. These would provide her two birdies on the homeward nine, but these only punctuated a run of three more bogeys to come home in 38. A first-round score for Mehaffey of +5 on a day where low numbers were hard fought and rare.

Speaking after her sublime first round 67, leader Angurasaranee reflected on her day: “Em, obviously nine birdies, it got to be a good day, right?” she said. “Yeah, I played some great golf out there, and made some great putts. I made some really good up-and-downs, and I just had two 3-putts out there which was a little iffy for me, but other than that it was such a good day.”

Asked about what she considered the strongest part of her game today she said: “Em, off the tee and approach, but I mean, everything was pretty good today, so nothing stands out more than the other. It was pretty perfect to me.” And what if anything she had to work on for the rest of the week: “Em, to me I think that everything is just right in me and I just have to believe in myself, be confident and knowing that I am good enough.”

The swap of order tomorrow sees Mehaffey head out on the first tee at 8.06am, while Walsh will tee off in the final of tomorrow’s 40 three-balls on the tenth hole at 12.59pm. With a course this menacing there are battles ahead to see them through to the weekend with the top 60 and ties qualifying for Saturday’s action.


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