ALICE Hewson kicked off her professional career with the best possible start by winning the Investec South African Women’s Open on her first start.
The 22-year-old rookie member of the Ladies European Tour came from three shots behind overnight leader Olivia Cowan to win by a shot, at Cape Town’s Westlake Golf Club.
Hewson, a member at Berkhamsted Golf Club, in Hertfordshire, said: “I couldn’t have hoped for a better start.
“It feels absolutely incredible and it really is a dream come true. Growing up as a kid, all I could ever dream of was playing on the Ladies European Tour and to come and win my first event, the feeling is indescribable.”
Hewson, who turned professional in September and finished fifth at LET Qualifying School, in January, said: “This has definitely happened a lot quicker than I thought it would.
“I was hoping to get off to a nice steady start, but this is definitely a good thing.”
Hewson birdied the first hole in the final round of the South African Women’s Open.
And although Alice bogeyed the third, she quickly clawed another shot back on the fourth hole, moving to five-under par.
She entered a four-way share of the lead after nine holes, and then took the sole advantage after the three players in the final group all bogeyed the 10th hole.
With a bogey of her own on the 11th, Hewson dropped back into a share of the lead, but then broke away from the pack with a birdie on the long 13th hole – and the rest of the field was unable to catch her.
While the rest of the golf world was going into lockdown because of the cornonavirus pandemic – which forced The Players’ Championship to be abandoned at Sawgrass 24 hours earlier, Hewson had the world stage to herself briefly.
It could have been a shaky finish for a lesser player, as Alice found trouble under the trees on 18.
Her second shot hit some branches, causing the ball to drop back down into the rough.
But the first Englishwoman to play a competitive round at Augusta nearly a a year ago, played a gutsy chip shot up to the green.
And then the veteran of two Curtis Cups holed a seven-foot par putt to complete a round of 71, to post a five-under total.
Hewson added: “The 18th was a bit of a highlight because I was in a bit of trouble off the tee and was still in trouble after my third shot.
“I think another highlight would be the par-five 13th, because I made a solid birdie there,” said the 2019 European Ladies’ Amateur Champion.
“Most of the week my putting has been very good, and my driving,” said the Clemson University graduate.
“I just went out there to play my own game. This golf course can play pretty tough and it’s going to give some shots back to you.
“So I tried to keep my game super steady and make some birdies.”
When asked if she was concerned about whether the tournament should have been played, given the coronavirus pandemic, Hewson said: “I think it was definitely the right decision that we continued playing this week – and it’s also the right decision that future tournaments have been cancelled.
“Everyone was already here and there is a very low risk here. So it was nice to be able to play some golf, because we don’t know how long it’s going to be now before we will again.”
Hewson finished a stroke ahead of Sweden’s Emma Nilsson and South African Monique Smit, who both recorded career-best finishes of second on the LET.
•For final results at the South African Women’s Open click here.
Smit win’s Sunshine Ladies Order of Merit
MONIQUE Smit’s joint runner-up finish in the South African Women’s Open also saw her leapfrog fellow LET member Stacy Bregman to win the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Investec Order of Merit
Smit said: “This is unreal. Right now, it’s very surreal. Standing over the final putt, I knew I had to hole it and I just felt extremely confident. That putt earned me my travel money for the year.
“My mom passed away last year and in every tournament this season, I’ve thought of her because she always used to caddie for me on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
“Today, facing that final putt, I really felt her and that putt was for my mom,” said an emotional Smit.
Scotland’s Kelsey MacDonald, Belgian Manon de Roey and France’s Manon Gidali were tied for fourth, while Cowan, from Germany, finished tied for seventh.
The leading amateur was former Youth Olympian Kaiyuree Moodley, who finished in a tie for 46th place.