Glancing at Gia Raad’s list of golfing accomplishments, it’s easy to forget that she’s just 16 years old. The SA Women’s Amateur champion and holder of the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship title is a precocious performer, a fact underscored when trying to call her one day in March.

“I’m just in school right now 😊” she texted.

The Grade 11 student attends St Mary’s in Johannesburg, although she admits she misses many classes due to her promising sporting career. It’s a fine balance trying to juggle both, but somehow she does so, even though she neither practises nor plays as much as she’d like.

Raad has long swum in the big pool of junior golf, but her trajectory shot up after winning the Nomads SA Girls Championship at Gary Player Country Club last year.

“I made a big jump from 2022 to 2023 in terms of my game,” she says. “Once I had that first win, it was easier to win with confidence. My game improved quite a lot after that.”


Raad’s top five...

Once I had that first win, it was easier to win with confidence. My game improved quite a lot after that

Indeed, across an eight-month span, Raad also claimed the English Girls’ crown, the Mpumalanga Women’s Open, the Boland Women’s Open and the Free State Open. In February this year, she won the SA Women’s Amateur, a run that saw her shoot up the rankings, where she now sits second and well primed to embellish her credentials among SA sport’s new wave of fresh talent.

Her dad Norman was a former SA amateur captain who steered her towards golf from the age of five. She and her sister Noa would be driven to the range or the World of Golf where Gia revelled in hitting shot after shot. Blessed with a natural love of sport, it was no hardship to spend hours practising and trying new things. She was a natural.

It was a rite of passage that blossomed in the UK last July when she fired two eagles on her way to winning the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

“I wasn’t expecting anything, but I shot my best score – 66 – with a four-putt on the last hole,” she recalls. “I travelled there just for the experience. It was a strange feeling being the only South African – the English players had a community – but I was so happy with my form.”

She travels mostly with her father, who not only keeps an eye, but coaches her too. It’s an arrangement that suits her, although her passion for discovering new places is sometimes dampened by the inherent slog of moving from place to place.

The Country Club Johannesburg starlet plays under the wing of the GolfRSA body. She is also now an Elite Squad member and was awarded junior colours in March for the All Africa Junior Teams Championship.

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One of her recent highlights was the opportunity to compete at the Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational at Leopard Creek, where she finished third despite several tricky moments.

The event was run by the R&A and Raad was swept up by the sheer expertise and luxury on offer. “We were treated like pros,” she gushes. “We used the same set-up as the Alfred Dunhill, plus we had physios, a training room, all sorts. It was very well organised and I enjoyed it a lot.”

Many of the continent’s best players competed, making her third-place finish especially impressive.

With just less than two years left of school, Raad still has time to consider her options. Having ditched hockey a while ago due to the squeeze of time, she’s found her groove with golf and evidently has a promising future.

She’s fairly certain she wants to study, leaning towards a business degree, but what shape or form that takes is still up in the air. It may be overseas, it may be while she’s on the road.

She is still deciding whether she wants to turn professional sooner rather than later. Another option may be to pursue the US college route, but that’s an altogether different option that requires careful consideration.

For now, she’s having the adventure of a lifetime, books in one hand, golf clubs in the other.


See how Raad clinched the 2024 South African Women’s Amateur title at Modderfontein Golf Club.

watch now!

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