[imagesource: David Cannon / Getty Images]
South African golfers have long had a love affair with the British Open, referred to as the Open Championship.
Bobby Locke and Gary Player won the Claret Jug back in the day, and the likes of Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen have done so in more recent times.
It’s been many years since we had a female major winner in our ranks, but that wait has come to an end following Ashleigh Buhai’s victory after a marathon playoff against Chun In-gee in the Women’s Open at Muirfield yesterday.
Battling back from a soul-sapping triple bogey at the 15th, before which she basically had one hand on the trophy, Buhai parred the fourth playoff hole. In doing so, she became just the third South African woman to win a major golf championship, reports Sport24:
Golf Hall of famer Sally Little won the Women’s PGA Championship in 1980 and the 1988 Du Maurier Classic, which was a women’s major from 1979 until 2000. Alison Sheard also won the Women’s Open in 1979 at Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club.
A short par putt and the raw emotion could finally come to the fore, with her husband David rushing onto the green to celebrate our first major winner in decades:
33-year-old Buhai started the final round five clear but the horror show on the 15th drew her level with Chun.
That’s what makes her bunker save to win all the more impressive:
The sand save that made Ashleigh Buhai a major champion 🏆
— LPGA (@LPGA) August 7, 2022
Not that those who pay close attention to the women’s game will be too surprised by her deft touch from the sand:
I’m very proud of myself,” she continued. “I had to dig deep. But I was surprisingly calm in the playoff. Just tried to stay in the moment.
“Before I hit the bunker shot in the playoff, my caddie (Tanya Paterson) said ‘show them why you are ranked No 1 in bunkers this year’. It was great to do it.”
Chun, who already has three majors to her name at the age of 27, was magnanimous in defeat, saying she was “very happy” for Buhai.
Great things have long been expected of Buhai, who won her first South African Amateur title when she was just 14. Now, finally, she can call herself a major winner, joining Player (1959) and Ernie Els (2002) as champions at Muirfield.
This from CBS Sports:
“It’s so difficult to put into words now, I think it might only hit me in a few days,” she said through tears afterwards.
“Obviously I’m very proud. We’re a very small country, so to be able to produce quite a few major champions, it’s quite something. For me to be a female South African and a major winner, I’ve got no words. It’s life changing.”
The title also comes with a $1,095 million (around R18 million) cheque. That’s well short of the men’s prize money, where the winner gets $2.5 million (around R42 million), but it’s enough to ensure you can pop a few bottles of expensive bubbly in celebration.
Below are the highlights of the entire final round and the playoff:
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