Fighting to make the cut
Congratulations to Ashleigh Buhai for her AIG Women’s Open victory Aug. 7 at Muirfield, Scotland.
The 33-year-old’s very first LPGA victory was impressive not only because it is a major, but also because it came after a four-hole playoff against multiple major winner In Gee Chun.
Buhai already had a good resume. She represented South Africa in the 2016 Olympics, with professional tour victories as an amateur and on the Ladies’ European Tour. She made several top 10 LPGA finishes, including a 4th place earlier this season.
When highlighted during televised competition, Buhai seems a bit subdued, with few signs of emotion.
She showed another side of her personality as I watched her play in June during the second round of the 2022 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer.
Buhai struggled in the first round with a 4-over par 75, a significant hurdle to making the cut. With an early tee time for the second round, the only thing she could do was play aggressively and hope for the best.
After two routine pars, Buhai’s second shot on the par-5 third hole finished in the front fringe of the green, about 70 feet from the hole. A chip to 3 feet short of the hole led to an easy putt for her first birdie.
She parred the fourth hole, but a nasty lip-out putt on the fifth forced a bogey.
After two more pars, her tee shot on the par-4 8th hole bounced down the cart path left of the fairway, stopping about 60 yards from the hole. Buhai took relief from the pavement and made what looked like a good shot. However, it rolled off the green on the short side, down a steep embankment.
Buhai’s chip shot flew a lot higher and longer than she wanted. The ball stopped about 8 feet past the hole.
This normally very calm player slammed her wedge into the ground.
A few deep breaths later, Buhai rolled her par putt to an inch from the hole for yet another bogey.
That incident seemed to inspire her, however.
Her third shot on the par-5 ninth hole stopped 2 feet from the hole for an easy birdie. Her approach shot on the par-4 10th hole spun to a foot away for a tap-in birdie. Buhai made an 8-foot putt from hole high on the difficult par-3 11th hole for a third straight birdie. She made another great approach shot from 95 yards out on the 12th hole, finishing three feet from the hole.
These four birdies brought her two-day total to one over par, with a reasonable chance of making the cut with six holes to go.
On the 13th hole, her approach shot bounced off the green down an embankment into thickish rough, about 20 feet short and right of the hole. Buhai’s first chip landed in the fringe, checked up quickly, and rolled back down the mound.
She took another deep breath, took her stance, and chipped in for a great par save.
However, Buhai’s birdie train had left the station. Her first putt on the par-4 14th hole from 12 feet hopped and slowed, leaving her 2 inches short of a 3. On the long uphill par-3 15th hole, Buhai made a routine two-putt par from 30 feet. A long drive and short second shot on the 16th hole left her 18 feet from the hole with another two-putt finish.
Buhai made two more routine pars on 17 and 18, finishing at 68 for the day and one-over par for the two rounds. Later that day she missed the cut by a single stroke.
We chatted outside the scorer’s tent just after she finished. I complimented Buhai on how she fought through the round, especially after she slammed her club on the eighth hole.
She laughed and said, “Thank you. You know, sometimes you’ve just got to let it out. It’s not like me; I’m pretty calm and level-headed normally.”
I said it was her first slammed club of the day, and Buhai quickly responded, “First and only.”
We also discussed her par-saving chip shot on 13. “It was big. That’s what you need sometimes just to keep the momentum going. You need a little luck now and again.”
As for working to make the cut, she said, “Of course, that’s every week. Yesterday I just didn’t putt very well. My coach was here so we just amended something [with my putting], and I did a little bit better. That’s all I could ask for.”
Sometimes you hear about professional golfers “mailing it in” after a bad first round. That certainly wasn’t the case with Buhai.
Congratulations to Carmela Boyle for her hole in one, made July 19 during league play at Mulligan’s Pointe. She used an 8-iron on the 112-yard par 3 sixth hole.
Local club competition results
The Kings Creek CC Ladies 18-Hole group played a low net game Aug. 11. Erin Reid won first gross in the first flight. Jen Flinchbaugh won first net. Kim Parks finished second net and Sharon Denny took third.
Jeannine Doane won first gross in the second flight. Linda Kelleher won first net. Leslie Ledogar took second net and Lisa Smith finished third. Kay Woollen won first gross in the third flight. Anne Farley won first net. Alicia Polsky took second net and Joanne Yurik finished third.