Cape Town – Ashleigh Simon sealed her spot in the field for this year’s US Women’s Open, while Jaco van Zyl was among those who qualified for the US Open via the most recent Official World Ranking on Monday.
Simon competed in one of four Sectional Qualifiers played across the United States. The four-time Sunshine Tour winner fired rounds of 73 and 71 at Oak Park Country Club in River Grove, Illinois to claim one of just two spots on offer to the field of 90 players.
“I think I surprised myself,” said a delighted Simon from Chicago on Monday night.
“My fiancée David (Buhai, also her caddie) took a break from the LPGA Tour to celebrate my birthday, my dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day in May. We flew back to the United States on Saturday and the flight was more than 18 hours. I expected the jetlag to catch up with us on Monday, so I kept my expectations low.
“I’m absolutely stoked with the result. I have quite a few starts in events LPGA Tour events coming up and I’m going to make the most of the starts to build up form for the US Women’s Open.”
Simon will line up alongside South Africa’s top ranked Lee-Anne Pace in the 71st US Women’s Open from 7-10 July, while compatriots Bertine Strauss, Paula Reto, Stacy Bregman and Nicole Garcia will aim to strengthen the South African numbers at CordeValle in San Martin, California this week.
Strauss and Reto’s Sectional Qualifier in Virginia rained out on Monday, but the pair will take to the course at Hermitage Country Club today.
Garcia, who beat 72 other hopefuls to claim one of eight spots at the Sectional Qualifier Europe to qualify for the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina, will join Bregman in the Sectional Qualifier Europe in Buckinghamshire, England on Wednesday where the pair will vie for spots in the 73-strong field at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.
Meanwhile Jaco van Zyl moved to 59th in the world and grabbed the second last spot available via the rankings following a tie for 23rd in the Irish Open on Sunday.
The 14-time Sunshine Tour winner narrowly missed out on a spot in the Master’s field earlier this year, but secured a second appearance at The Open with a top 30 finish in last year’s Race to Dubai.
And he will debut in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey from July 28-31 - thanks to a special invitation from the PGA of America.
“This is great, really, really great,” Van Zyl said. “I couldn’t be happier with how it’s all unfolding at the moment.”
And, right on the tail of the three Majors follows golf’s debut at the Olympic Games in Brazil in August.
The 2016 season could really turn into a watershed year for Van Zyl, who is currently in position to qualify for Rio since Oosthuizen and Schwartzel ruled themselves out of selection.
“I’d love to go and represent my country,” Van Zyl said ahead of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open a fortnight ago. “It would be great to walk away with an Olympic medal, but I think winning the Masters will still be the ultimate goal. I’ve had two dreams since I was little – to play in the Million Dollar Challenge (now the Nedbank Golf Challenge) and the Masters. I’ve ticked one box, so far. Now it’s all about ticking that second.”
Van Zyl will join countrymen Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel at the 116th US Open from June 16-19 at Oakmont Country Club, while world number 11 Grace will spearhead the local challenge at Royal Troon from 14-17 July.
Other South Africans in field include former champions Ernie Els and Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters winner Schwartzel, European Tour champion George Coetzee, as well as Joburg Open winner Haydn Porteous and runner-up Zander Lombard, who qualified via the three spots on offer in The Open Qualifying Series at the Joburg Open.
For the nearly 600 players who advance through local qualifying and the hundreds of others who are exempt, there will be 12 sectional qualifying sites for US Open hopefuls.
The Japan sectional took place on May 23 at Higashi Hirono Golf Club in Hyogo Prefecture, Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey will host qualifying in England for the 12th consecutive year, on May 30 and all 10 US sectional qualifiers will be conducted on June 6.