There will be a dark horse lurking in the form of Brittney-Fay Berger when the South African Women’s Masters tees off at San Lameer Country Club on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Kloof Country Club member will be making just her fourth start as a golf professional, but has already notched up three top-25 finishes in as many events.
With the Sunshine Ladies Tour proving to be the perfect breeding ground for tomorrow’s talent, Berger is among a new generation of young talent ready to cut their teeth on the local scene.
In 2017, former South African number one ranked amateur Carrie Park picked up her maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour title in the SA Women’s Masters. She is now plying her trade on the lucrative Korean LPGA Tour.
Germany’s Laura Fuenfstueck, meanwhile, tasted victory last year in the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, which paved her path to playing on to the Ladies European Tour this year.
“It’s been a bit different playing for money. I’ve been getting used to it though, and it’s really nice to have so many tournaments in a row like this. It gets a bit tiring, but if you manage your travelling it’s not too bad,” said Berger.
“It’s quite nice that I’m back home, I got back last night from the Dimension Data Challenge. I feel much better going into this week. I’m really enjoying it and playing in all these events.”
Showing little signs of nerves in her first event in the paid ranks, Berger finished 24th at the Canon Sunshine Ladies Tour Open in Irene at the end of January. A week later at the Serengeti Team Championship, she paired up with fellow rookie Casandra Hall as the duo finished tenth.
“It was amazing, and I was so happy to make the cut in my first start. That was my goal going at the start of the Sunshine Ladies Tour. I had a disappointing last round, but I was just happy to make the cut and earn some money. Once I made the cut, I just went for it on the last day – it didn’t work out but I was still really happy with my result. It makes it a bit easier for me – getting used to the players and how things are run.”
On Sunday in George a 16th place finish followed.
“I played at George Golf Club before, but I had never played the Outeniqua Course at Fancourt. So going into the last round, I was a bit blind. So I was happy with how it went and to be improving each week.”
The KwaZulu-Natal native could be a good bet for a first top-10 or better on the tricky and tight San Lameer layout.
“Being back home now is really nice as I know the courses,” said Berger. “I like San Lameer. It’s a very tricky course, especially when the wind comes up. I played there a couple times. I played in the ladies event there last year as an amateur and I didn’t make the cut. I’m hoping to improve on that.”
In fact, Berger has put her studies in medicine on hold to pursue her career in golf. Few teenagers are faced with massive life decisions right after school, but it’s about living a life without regret she explained.
“I really wanted to study medicine, but it is a seven-year course so once I start there’s no real time for golf. Also I would really like to make golf my career. I decided to give myself a couple years – if I make it I’ll carry on and if I don’t I’m still not too old and I can go back and study. If I left the golf until later I might end up regretting not having tried it. It’s just trying to see if I’m good enough.
“I’m just thinking about the next five years or so. If I make quite a bit of money and I can afford to live off that, then I’ll carry on.”
There were also a host of new faces in George last week including Scotland’s Gabrielle MacDonald who made her debut on tour with an impressive sixth place finish, just five shots behind winner Nobuhle Dlamini.
MacDonald, a former member of the Scottish Golf Women’s National Squad, will hope to keep up the trend of young Scottish golfers who tend to excel on SA fairways, like GolfRSA African Amateur Champion Euan Walker.
Fellow Scottish Golf Women’s National Squad member Hannah McCook is another debutant heading to San Lameer.
The 25-year-old Gleneagles Country Club member, playing last year as an amateur, missed the cut in the SA Women’s Masters, but produced a solid top-15 finish at the Wild Coast a week later in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge. McCook could well feature this week knowing what to expect this time around on the windy south coast – much improved conditions from her native Scotland.
“Coming out this year as a professional is quite exciting. We play in the wind a lot at home, and playing here in the warmer temperatures made it a lot easier,” said the Nethy Bridge resident, who works part-time in housekeeping at a residential centre back home.
Another international hoping to make her presence felt will be Pasqualle Coffa from the Netherlands. The Eindhovensche Golf member was in contention for the first two rounds last week in George after rounds of 74 and 70, but was undone by a closing 77 to finish on five-over. Despite her disappointing third round, she finished only seven shots behind in 11th position on her own.
The former Dutch International Open champion could indeed be in contention in the next few weeks as she prepares for a season on the Ladies European Tour Access Series.