Stacy Bregman sank a curling 20-footer for birdie on the first play-off hole on Saturday to pull off her first win in over five years as she took the inaugural Standard Bank Ladies Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s West Course.
Bregman narrowly missed a birdie putt to win it from Lee-Anne Pace from a nearly identical position in regulation play, but it was a perfectly judged effort in the play-off as she beat Pace to break a victory drought which had lasted five years and three months.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “It’s been a while, and I’ve had a couple of tough years, and that makes this really special.”
The play-off happened when Pace pulled off a trademark birdie-birdie finish in regulation play to close out a final round of three-under-par 69, and Bregman had to fight off the nerves after holding the 36-hole lead. Bregman made bogeys on the fourth and again, crucially, on the 13th, as she signed for a closing level-par 72.
“I had said to Neal Herman, my caddie, that we were just going to go out there and have a bit of fun,” said Bregman. “That’s because I haven’t been the best on the golf course attitude-wise. I just tried to change my attitude a bit, which has obviously helped. Everyone has said for a long time that I need to do that, and I think it eventually clicked.
“I also just backed myself a little bit more than I have been. Sometimes when you’re struggling, you forget that you can play this game. I know I can, and I proved it to myself this weekend. I came out with the victory and I’m very proud of myself.”
It wasn’t just that personal pressure and the knowledge that Pace was in pursuit that she had to deal with. Rookie Kiera Floyd put up a doughty challenge with her power off the tee putting her in positions that gave her plenty of opportunities. She got it to five-under through 11 holes, and, with enough holes ahead of her, including the par-five 18th, she had every right to expect to push for a win. But a bogey on 12, and pressing just a little too hard, left her one-stroke out of the play-off in third place on four-under, one clear of Bonita Bredenhann of Namibia and Cara Gorlei who shared fourth.
For Bregman, all the doubts about choices made and missed putts in that final round were dispelled as her putt went in on the play-off hole, and Pace’s narrowly missed. “It just shows that my game is in good shape,” she said. “I held up under pressure there, and to make a birdie on the play-off hole shows that I’ve still got it. I wasn’t thinking much standing over the putt, actually. I just stuck to my processes. You can’t really think of the outcome. I just tried to read it as best I could, put the best speed on it, and let nature take its course. In the end, it worked in my favour.”
Bregman was really pleased with the opportunity Standard Bank presented with the new tournament on the Sunshine Ladies Tour schedule. “Without sponsors like Standard Bank, women’s golf in South Africa wouldn’t be where it is today,” she said. “There are so many up-and-coming amateurs, young pros that have been give a real chance to compete when they didn’t have anything outside the six tournaments at the beginning of the year. I think you’re going to see the level of women’s golf in South Africa really rise.”