‘Times are changing’: Ashleigh Buhai prepares for a new life after her first major victory at the Women’s British Open

When Muirfield, home to a golf club founded in 1744, first hosted the women’s event, Ashleigh Buhai won her first major title in her 221st career start on the LPGA Tour.
On a gripping final day fit for the occasion, the South African snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, roaring on the brink of a belated collapse to beat three-time world champion Chun In-Gee in a stunning four-hole playoff.

In doing so, Buhai added his name to an illustrious roster of South African golfers who have won at Muirfield, the site of the first men’s Open wins for Gary Player and Ernie Els.

Still, while the legendary duo have 13 major titles between them, Buhai will forever have the unique honor of being the first women’s Open winner on the legendary Scottish links field. With Muirfield overturning his male-only membership policy in 2017, the added meaning of triumph is not lost for Buhai.

“Adding my name to that list with Gary and Ernie is a great honor,” he told CNN’s Don Riddell.

“But even as the first woman to win at Muirfield, we made history this past week … times are changing.

“Everyone there last week was great, the crowd was great – they welcomed us with open arms.”

Buhai holds the trophy after his victory.

compensation

The 33-year-old grabbed a historic win seemed to slip away to death when she tripled hole 15, the five-stroke advantage she had at the start of the final round vanished as Chun equalized.

Having bogeyed only once each day before – carding one under 70, 65 and 64 – Buhai now required three pars in a row simply to climb four of 75. But rather than panicking, the South African was determined to keep his head cool. .

“I just said to myself, ‘okay, we’re back tied for the lead’ … I hadn’t lost it yet,” Buhai recalled.

“I still had three holes to go. And my caddy just said to me, ‘Let’s go back into it and focus on the next shot.’ And that’s all I could do, the only thing I was checking was the next take.

“I did so much well that week, so I tried not to let a hole interrupt my entire week.”

Buhai sets up a shot on the 14th hole on the final day.

Sure enough, Buhai kept his nerve to finish with three par and arrange a nail-biting sudden death playoff with Chun.

The tension for Buhai was further compounded by the opposition’s pedigree, as Chun chased his second major of the season after winning the PGA Championship in June.

“I was just trying to stay in the moment, focus on every shot,” Buhai said.

“I knew that In-Gee was going to be a fierce competitor, she’s already a big winner.”

Buhai putt during the playoffs.

‘I will change my life’

Unable to be separated after three rounds of the 18th hole, the stalemate was unlocked when Chun, having found a bunker off the tee, could only be scared. Despite joining her opponent in the sand, Buhai’s incredible approach shot left her with a short putt for the first major title.

Making no mistake, the South African threw the ball home. After looking at the sky, the new champion was hugged by her husband David, an image of anxiety and stress throughout the playoff.

Buhai celebrates the victory with her husband David on the 18th green.

A tearful Buhai paid tribute to her husband – who had previously made the corpse for her for eight years – in a thrilling post-win interview. After turning pro in 2007, his triumph at Muirfield marked an unprecedented new peak in a “long journey”.

Despite three wins on the Ladies European Tour, Buhai – having never finished above 5th in a major label – was still aiming for her maiden LPGA Tour win when she landed in Scotland on Thursday.

The joy of ending that drought was only softened by her claim for a $ 1,095,000 prize pool, taking her career earnings to $ 3,503,926 and continuing a pivotal year for cash prizes in women’s golf.

Minjee Lee’s $ 1.8 million win on an unprecedented $ 10 million pot at the US Open in June was followed by another PGA Championship record, where Chun took home 1.35 million. dollars of a $ 9 million grant that had doubled from the previous year’s event.

Kim Joo-hyung, 20, of South Korea, flies to the historic first PGA Tour win

In addition to the increased media attention that comes from being a great champion, they are the kind of figures that are bound to turn Buhai’s world upside down.

“The money we’re playing for now … it’s changing our lives,” he said. “We have never played for this amount of money, so the bags are great.

“I think I’ll only realize it in a few months, when things really start to hit.”