By Lali Stander
Lee-Ann Pace is almost always a certain bet when she gets the bit between her teeth and the Paarl golfer was once again untouchable as she shifted into high gear to capture the Cape Town Ladies Open title on Friday.
Pace birdied five of the six par fives at Royal Cape Golf Club and added another brace of gains at 10 and 18 to bank her eighth consecutive Sunshine Ladies Tour title with a flawless seven-under-par 67.
The victory on 16-under-par 206 padded Pace’s stockpile of trophies, but she quickly pointed out that the three stroke victory over Ashleigh Simon was a lot more work than the leaderboard implied.
“Let me just state for the record that this wasn’t a walkover,” said the Paarl golfer.
“I started two behind Ash and she protected her lead with six straight pars. I narrowed the gap with a birdie at the first par five (third) and I pulled one shot clear when I birdied and she dropped seven, but she tied us on 12 under with a great birdie at 12.
“I holed a 20-footer for birdie at nine to put some pressure on her, but she didn’t even flinch and made her birdie putt.”
Pace edged two strokes clear when Simon responded with a bogey to her birdie at 11.
“That two-shot swing gave me momentum down the back nine, but Ash never let up,” she said.
“I hit it close at all three par fives (11, 14 and 16) for easy birdies, but if Ash’s putter was just a little hotter, it would have been a tight battle right up until the end.”
Pace closed with a birdie at 18 and Simon’s short stick produced back-to-back birdies at the closing holes for a two under 72.
“I loved the contest, because it really put me under pressure,” Pace said.
“Actually, none of my victories this season was walkovers. That just shows you how the standard on the Sunshine Ladies Tour has improved since we launched in 2014.
“Lejan (Lewthwaite) and Carrie (Park) kept me under pressure in the SA Women’s Open and Ash and Bertine (Strauss) stayed on my tail at the Ladies Joburg Open. Today it was Ash again, but there were a bunch of players behind us also making a move.”
Pace was also seriously impressed by teenager Ivanna Samu, who led the first round.
The 17-year-old Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur and Stroke Play champion finished seventh in the SA Women’s Open and won the Leading Amateur award in her last four starts, including the Cape Town Ladies Open where she finished sixth overall on eight under 214.
“To be honest, I didn’t know much about her until she led the first round at Royal Cape,” said Pace.
“I talked to her yesterday when we did a television interview and I checked her out at the driving range this morning. She is an incredible ball striker. To keep a cool head under pressure like she did playing with top pros like Ash and Monique Smit is quite amazing. That girl has game and she is definitely a future champion.”