By Jeff Babineau
BELMONT, Mich. – South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai first played on the LPGA in 2008; she didn’t win for the first time until 2022, at age 33, when she captured a major, the AIG Women’s Open, at Muirfield.
Suddenly, winning is becoming a habit for Buhai. On Sunday, she won the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, her first victory on U.S. soil. That victory came on the heels of winning the Australian Women’s Open in December and her home country’s South African Women’s Open in March.
With a major on deck next week back in New Jersey (KPMG Women’s PGA), did she ever consider sitting out this week’s Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give? She didn’t give that one second of thought.
“My schedule was to play four in a row, and I always tend to play better when I play my way into majors,” Buhai said late Wednesday afternoon after wrapping up a short-game practice session at Blythefield Country Club. “I took Monday and Tuesday off, and played the pro-am today. I’ve been here many times, so today was my ‘practice’ round, and I just tried to implement the things I did last week into this week once I got onto the course.”
Playing the week after winning can be a tricky task. There is good form and momentum, obviously. But there also comes a point where a player must draw a line and start anew. Buhai said things can get complicated because suddenly expectations have risen to new levels. So she said she will take on this week slowly, see what it brings. “It’s great last week happened,” she said, “but it’s time to start over.”
Winning in the U.S. was a goal she had set at the start of 2023. She rescued a poor ballstriking round to start last week’s 54-hole event, and was happy afterward that she hung in good enough to have some sort of shot on th weekend. She then went out and shot 65-65 at the Bay Course at Seaview.
“It meant the world to me,” Buhai said, asked if winning a second time is extra validation for the major she won. “Every win is extra special. It makes you believe in yourself more, and stamps your approval out here. My goal this year was to win in the U.S. … I guess I finally got that monkey off my back after all these years.
“It gives me confidence that I can do it, that I can win over here. But it’s a new week.”