Alice Hewson could not have wished for a better start to launch her professional career on the Ladies European Tour.
On a warm and tranquil Saturday in the City of Cape Town, the 22-year-old rookie from Hemel Hempstead in England lifted the Investec South African Women’s Open title in her first start, coming from behind to triumph by a shot at Westlake Golf Club.
“It feels absolutely incredible and it really is a dream come true. I don’t have words, really. Growing up as a kid, all I could ever dream of was playing on the Ladies European Tour and to win in my first event is just indescribable,” said Hewson, who turned professional in September and finished fifth at LET Q-School in January.
“This has definitely happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. I was hoping to get off to a nice steady start, but this is definitely a good thing!”
Hewson lagged three strokes off the pace from the overnight leader Olivia Cowan from Germany at the start of the final day.
She sacrificed a birdie at the first hole with a bogey on the third, but she quickly clawed back the gain on the five-under-par. She entered a four-way share of the lead after nine holes and then took pole position after all three players in the final group bogeyed the 10th hole.
With a bogey of her own on the 11th, Hewson dropped back into a share of the lead, but then broke away from the pack when she holed a 20-footer for birdie on the par five 13th.
From that point until the closing hole, no-one could catch her.
What could have turned into disaster for a lesser player turned into triumph after Hewson found the trees with her tee shot on the 18th.
Her second shot hit some branches, causing the ball to drop back down into the rough, but she played a gutsy chip shot up to the green and then holed a seven foot putt for par to complete a round of 71, ending on five-under-par.
“The 18th was a highlight because I was still in trouble after my third shot, and the other highlight of my round was the long putt I sunk on 13,” said the 2019 European Ladies’ Amateur Champion. “Most of the week my putting has been very good, and my driving. I just went out there to play my own game. This golf course can play pretty tough and it’s going to give some shots back to you so I tried to keep my game super steady and make some birdies.”
When asked if she was concerned about whether the tournament should have been played, given the Coronavirus pandemic, Hewson replied: “I think it was definitely the right decision that we continued playing this week and it’s also the right decision that future tournaments have been cancelled. Everyone was already here and there is a very low risk here so it was nice to be able to play some golf, because we don’t know how long it’s going to be now before we will again.”
South Africa’s Monique Smit recorded a career best finish on the LET when she holed a clutch putt for par at the last for a round of 71 to share second with Sweden’s Emma Nilsson.
Smit, who claimed the final card on offer at the LET Q-School in Spain in January when she edged out three players in a sudden-death play-off, not only bagged R276 000 for her joint runner-up finish, but also edged out Stacy Bregman for the R100 000 bonus that came with winning the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Investec Order of Merit.
“Right now, this is very surreal. Standing over the final putt, I knew I had to hole it and I just felt extremely confident. That one putt earned me my travel money for the year,” said the Oubaai golfer.
“We lost mom last year and in every tournament this season, I’ve thought of her. She caddied for me in every season of the Sunshine Ladies Tour since it launched in 2014. Today, standing over that final putt, I really felt her. That putt was for my mom.”
Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald, Manon de Roey from Belgium and Manon Gidali from France tied for fourth, while overnight leader Olivia Cowan from Germany tied for seventh.
Former Youth Olympian Kaiyuree Moodley was the only amateur to survive the cut to 60 and ties and was the proud recipient of the Jackie Mercer Trophy as the leading amateur. The 18-year-old GolfRSA Elite Squad member and Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation carded a final round 75 to tie for 46th.