Three-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion Lee-Anne Pace will spearhead an impressive line-up of 10 Sunshine Ladies Tour winners in the third instalment of the Joburg Ladies Open from 31 January to 2 February.
Pace will have to plot a different path to victory, though, if she is to repeat her winning performance at the inaugural edition at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington in 2015.
Modderfontein Golf Club is playing host to the R500 000 showpiece for the first time this year and the new venue has attracted a large field of 81 players, featuring 31 international campaigners and 21 amateur contestants.
Pace is eager to get acquainted with the demanding 5,957 metre par-72 layout in Tuesday’s pro-am.
‘I’ve never played this course, so I am really looking forward to the pro-am so I can have a good look at the course,’ said Pace.
‘I’ve heard from the other players that it is one of the old classics. It’s a Parklands layout, which always suits me. So I am excited to go out there and discover all its nooks and crannies and devise a strategy for the tournament.’
If Pace can get the short stick warmed up this week, she will definitely be a prime contender for a 12th Sunshine Ladies Tour win.
Over the 54 holes of the Canon Ladies Tshwane Open, she led the field in average greens hit in regulation and was fourth in driving accuracy. Her statistics were well over 70 percent, however, she averaged 32.67 putts per round.
‘I just struggled to get any kind of rhythm going,’ said Pace.
‘I left so many putts short and had a lot of lip-outs. But I had a great practice session at Pearl Valley over the weekend. I feel confident with my putting stroke and, if I can get it going early at Modderfontein, I’ll definitely be in the chasing pack this week.’
Pace can expect strong opposition from in-form Stacy Bregman, Ashleigh Buhai and international competitors Carrie Park from South Korea, Spain’s Maria Beautell and Alexandra Lennartsson from Sweden.
Bregman is riding high on confidence after she captured her fifth Sunshine Ladies Tour title by four shots in the season-opener last Thursday.
‘I played Modderfontein as a junior and always loved the course,’ she said.
‘I came to play the course before the Canon Ladies Tshwane Open and the greens were in great nick. I’ve always enjoyed this course and there are some good memories here, which is always a bonus.’
Buhai, Park, Beautell and Lennartsson also showed some serious form at Pretoria Country Club, especially in the final round. Buhai finished second, Park was fourth behind Pace and Beautell and Lennartsson tied for fifth.
Coming off a fantastic season on the LPGA Tour, Buhai is keen to add the Joburg Ladies Open to her title haul before she heads abroad next week.
‘You always chase the titles you haven’t won yet,’ said the world number 110.
‘I won the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic at Royal Johannesburg, but never the Joburg Ladies Open, so this one is high on my priority list.’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images