Leján Lewthwaite is no stranger to success having won several tournaments on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and this week’s she’s looking to pick up her first Ladies European Tour win on home turf. We caught up with Leján ahead of the Investec South African Open to reflect on her journey to the LET, what she’s been up to during lockdown, life on Tour plus a few insights into this week’s course.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO GOLF?
I was 9 years old when I picked up my first club but I only started focusing on golf after I turned 17 and I really started to focus on my game when I began seeing my first golf coach Robbie Stewart. After school I’d go to the Gavin Levenson Golf Academy and dream of getting a scholarship to play in the United States.
In 2011 that dream came true when I was offered a full scholarship at Texas State University. I won my first NCAA division 1 collegiate golf tournament in just my second start and graduated in 2015. I returned to South Africa and turned pro at the start of 2016.
Leján at Texas State University
The end of 2016 marked my first attempt at a European Tour card through Qualifying school. I managed conditional status for 2017, which I decided to spend playing on the Ladies European Access Tour. My third attempt in 2018 was my success story and my gateway onto the European Tour. I earned full playing rights for the 2019 season. I then finished my first full year on the LET in 70th position on the Order of Merit, retaining my full status for 2020 and inevitably 2021.
Looking back there’s a couple of standout moments that are very special to me. Claiming back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour in 2020 is probably my greatest golfing achievement, closely followed by earning my full card on the LET. My aim for the season is to finish top 30 in the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit for 2021 and my eyes are set on a good performance this week.
HOW HAVE YOUR PREPARED FOR THE START OF THE SEASON?
Everyone’s preparation has been slightly different this year and I’ve tried to keep my game as sharp as possible. During lockdown I built a hitting bay in the garden. Instead of hitting out of bunkers onto the green, I’ve been hitting chip shots into my washing basket! It’s kept me focused but nothing beats getting out on the course. Staying fit is important to me so alongside golf I like to go mountain biking, surfing and when I get the chance to go scuba diving, I love it!
When I arrive at tournaments, I like to get to the course at least an hour before my tee time. Prior to that, I make sure I’ve had a good breakfast, I’ve rolled on my foam roller and maybe done some warm-up exercises. Once at the course I head to the range for about 15-25 minutes (wedge, mid-irons, long irons, woods). Then to the putting green for about 15-20 minutes (short outs, long putts) and then to the chipping green for a couple chip or bunker shots.
I’ve recently added a combo set of P7MC’s and P770’s to my bag and I’m absolutely loving them, but not as much as my Spider X. It’s my “money making” club and since I’ve put it in the bag, I’m confident every time I take it out the bag. When it comes to setting up my bag, I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious but I do like to match my ball markings with the outfit I’m wearing and one thing I always do is I have to clean my golf shoes before I leave the house.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO AMATEURS WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Once piece of advice for amateurs would be to keep your head down. I sometimes don’t do it, and it’s never a good shot.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU BUT WOULD BE SHOCKED TO KNOW?
I’ve represented South Africa in sailing! I sailed single-handedly in the ocean from the age of 13 to about 16 when I stopped sailing to take up other sports more seriously
INSIDER DETAILS ON WEST LAKE
One thing that you’ve got to look out for is the strong winds that roll through from the ocean and the surrounding mountains, once the winds pick up anything can happen. You can gain shots on the field if you play 1, 3, 14 and 18 smartly but it’s mostly up to the weather conditions on the day. I’m not scared to whip out my driver on most holes so I’m hoping to pick up the win this week.