South Africa’s top golfing export Lee-Anne Pace will be targeting an unprecedented record when the South African Women’s Open heads to the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast for a fifth successive year in early 2017.
Thanks to the unwavering support of the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, Pace has the opportunity to extend her winning tally on the Sunshine Ladies Tour to 10 victories, but more significantly, she could become the first player on the women’s professional golf circuit in South Africa to win the national championship for a record third time.
Pace owns nine titles on the Ladies European Tour and is a LPGA Tour winner, but the prospect of rewriting the history books has the two-time defending champion brimming with excitement.
‘Winning my first SA Women’s Open was incredibly special and making it two in a row last year was very exciting, but once I learned that no one has won the SA Women’s Open three times, I knew that if the event returned in 2017, mine would be the first name on the entry list,’ said Pace.
‘Besides winning Majors, any golfer will tell you that lifting the trophy at your national Open is the best feeling in the world. I am always motivated by statistics, so to have the chance to set a record entirely of my own is the ultimate challenge. This is a very rare opportunity as I will only have this one shot at three successive victories, but it is exhilarating to stand on the brink of something so historic.’
The 54-hole tournament, sanctioned by the WPGA of South Africa, will carry a purse of R250,000 and will be staged at San Lameer Country Club from 26-28 January. It will be the third counting event for the 2017 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies after the SuperSport Ladies Challenge and SA Women’s Masters.
Pace ended the 2016 LPGA Tour season with a career-high 35th-place ranking on the LPGA Tour Money List. She plans to take a break over the festive season and come out firing next year. A victory on the South Coast could set the tone for another record-setting season for Pace.
‘The last two editions of the SA Women’s Open fell in November, but this new date is fantastic in terms of my schedule for next year,’ said the three-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion. ‘I love to come home to support the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the 2017 schedule allows me to start my season here at home. It’s also fantastic that we will have two events before we head to San Lameer, because that strengthens my chances; I will be super competitive for the SA Women’s Open.’
Ray Nkonyeni Municipality mayor, councillor Nomusa Mqwebu, said the municipality is proud to have been a key facilitator in the resurgence in women’s professional golf in South Africa.
‘The SA Women’s Open has become a very significant attraction in this region from an economic, tourism and sport development point of view since we first partnered with World Sports Promotions to bring back the SA Women’s Open to the national schedule in 2012,’ Mqwebu said.
‘This championship showcases the spectacular beauty of the South Coast and draws visitors to our shores, but it also plays a very important role in sparking the interest and shaping the future of our rising young golf talent. Our involvement with the SA Women’s Open directly led to the establishment of the Mayoral Golf Academy, where we introduce young girls from all over the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality district to the game of golf.
‘It is important for the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality to continue its legacy with the SA Women’s Open and we hope to continue our support for the next generation of South African golf stars with the fifth staging of this event on the South Coast. The 2017 championship promises to deliver a great contest with Lee-Anne targeting a three-peat of titles and our rising stars endeavouring to beat South Africa’s best.’
Tournament promoter Lesley Copeman, of World Sports Promotions, lauded the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality for their enduring support.
‘The South Coast has established itself as the home of the SA Women’s Open over the last four years, and thanks to the continued commitment from the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality and councillor Mqwebu, we are proud to return for a fifth consecutive year,’ Copeman said.
‘The Ray Nkonyeni Municipality stepped into the fold when women’s professional golf in South Africa desperately needed an injection of faith and we owe a great debt of gratitude to councillor Mqwebu and the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality for their unwavering support. We look forward to partnering with them to introduce the positive values of the sport to new audiences this year.
‘We would also like to extend our gratitude to Meyer du Toit and Pine Pienaar from San Lameer Country Club for hosting the SA Women’s Open for a third successive year.’
Entrance to the 2017 SA Women’s Open is free and highlights packages covering all three days will be flighted on SuperSport and SABC 3. Broadcast dates and times to be advised.