GOLF NEWS - Maritzburg rookie Michaela Fletcher is hoping the Standard Bank SA Women’s Masters will rain some of its good fortune on her rookie career when she tees off in today’s first round at San Lameer Country Club.
It happened for Carrie Park from South Korea in 2017. For Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck in 2018.
And, last year, the SA Women’s Masters it kick-started the career of recent two-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Lejan Lewthwaite.
“There is something magical about the Masters and the rookies,” said Fletcher. “Hopefully the trend continues and hopefully I’m the rookie Lady Luck smiles on this week.”
After the first three events on the 2020 Sunshine Ladies Tour, Fletcher admits it has been a difficult start to her life as a professional. However, a good finish in the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-am last week – seventh place in the individual and sixth place in the betterball – has buoyed her confidence.
“I had a deflating opening 76, but a really good finish with subsequent rounds of 72 72,” for the 24-year-old. “I was really proud of the mental grit I showed on the second and third day after it was a bit of a struggle at the start.
“I’m looking forward to this week - just taking the lessons I learnt last week. It was a little bit of a mental breakthrough - which proved I do belong here and that I made the right choice to come here and play professional golf. You kind of question yourself when times are tough.”
Fletcher had a top amateur career having represented the SA Girls side as a teenager before going to America to play college golf, and she was honest about how difficult it has been making the step-up to the paid ranks.
“It’s been a really tough transition. I played in the Sunshine Ladies Tour as an amateur before I went to college in America. I played really well and had several really good finishes. I had a really good amateur career, especially in America. I kind of expected myself to be doing a whole lot better than I am. I prepared really well and I haven’t really seen the results that I wanted,” she said.
“I think that’s part of the learning experience. I’ve spoken to a lot of older girls and they had it tough when they started out as pros. I think it’s about taking it all in, and realising you might not succeed right from the get-go and just understanding it’s a long process ahead.”
While her results in her first two events on the Sunshine Ladies were not what she was seeking (19th at the Cape Town Ladies Open and 22nd at the SuperSport Ladies Challenge), Fletcher said she was working on her patience - and the results would follow in time.
“I’m only three tournaments into my professional career, and it’s not the end of the world. It definitely hasn’t been what I wanted out of my pro career so far, but I’m learning and trying to get better every day.
“I’m trying to learn every day, and just get a little bit better - even if it takes some time.”
Despite what she calls a frustrating start to her Sunshine Ladies Tour campaign as a pro, Fletcher is lying well among the rookies on tour.
Woo-Ju Son from South Korea, who topped both the Open and Junior Amateur standings in South Africa, is currently highest on the Investec Order of Merit in eighth position.
Only Son and Tara Griebenow (10th) are ahead in the rookie standings with Fletcher in 11th. Lindi Coetzee (13th) and former South African Women’s Amateur champion Cara Gorlei (14th) are close behind, making for an intriguing battle this season among the rookies on tour.
Already, Fletcher has changed her approach and it has reflected in her improving results.
“I tried getting off to a fast start, and I found that doesn’t suit me. I’m now trying to ease into rounds and play par golf,” she said.
“If you’re hitting greens in regulation and playing par golf it builds confidence. You’re probably going to have a couple looks at birdies early on anyway. So I’m just taking it in my stride - because you can’t win a tournament in the first round but you can lose it. At the end of the day I’m playing against the course, and my capabilities and not the other players.”
Park came out on top at Rondebosch Golf Club, but Lewthwaite and Fuenfstueck both captured their maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour titles at San Lameer.
As for the test provided by the coastal layout that is typically windswept, it should not be a problem for Fletcher who grew up playing golf in windy weather.
“Coastal golf is obviously totally different with windy conditions and the slower greens. I grew up playing golf in East London so I feel like I have a base knowledge in the wind,” she said.
“It’s about opening up your mind to playing different types of shots and not necessarily exact distances. The thing about coastal golf is that you have to be creative and not worry too much about the wind because it’s the same for everybody.”