On Valentine’s Day she spoiled her loved ones. On Wednesday, the celebrations were all about her. When Thursday came, South Africa’s top ranked women’s golfer, Lee-Anne Pace was all business again ahead of the Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Challenge in George.
‘It was great to treat everyone on Tuesday and to have the favour returned on my birthday, but now it’s time to get serious about winning,’ said the 36-year-old.
The 54-hole event tees off at the George Golf Club on Friday. The defending champion dearly wants to be in the driver’s seat when the final round moves to the Outeniqua Course at Fancourt on Sunday.
‘The Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Pro-Am is one of my most favourite weeks of the year,’ said Pace. ‘I love coming back, because I learned the game down here on the Garden Route and I also love the social element of this week.
‘It’s a different kind of week, because the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am is on at the same time, so we all meet up at the fantastic functions Dimension Data puts on every night. It’s really great to catch up with everyone and we meet lots of new people.
‘It’s a very social week that lets you leave the golf behind and have a little fun. I think the combination of competitiveness and socialising contributes to my positive attitude and that’s why I always do well here.’
It’s a big week for Pace, who is gunning for a fourth successive Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.’The runner-up finish at the Cape Town Ladies Open last week definitely helps my position in the points, but I’m feeling the pressure,’ she said.
‘When Dimension Data boosted the purse from to R500 000, they did me a huge favour, because a win this week will strengthen my chances.’
Pace ranks fourth in the points, but current leader Ashleigh Buhai has a 600-point advantage.
‘Ash is away playing the LPGA Tour’s Australian Open, but next week I’m off to play the LPGA Tour in Thailand and Singapore,’ Pace said. ‘If there was ever a time to win, it’s this week. If I can pocket the 650 points for the win, I can overtake Ash and I need it.
‘I’ll miss the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic, sponsored by Canon, next week and the Sun International Ladies Challenge, but I’ll be back in time for the Ladies Joburg Open the week before the final. A good finish at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington will hopefully give me enough points to challenge for the Chase to the Investec Cup title again.
‘The big work starts now and I’m up for it. I was a little scratchy after the long break, but the putter was hot last week and the rest of my game is in good shape.’
The raised stakes have certainly inspired the three-time SA Women’s Open champion, but Pace can expect some fierce opposition. Buhai might be in Australia, but Kiran Matharu, Carrie Park and Kim Williams – ranked second, third and fifth in the points standings – will also be gunning for repeat success.
Park from South Korea triumphed at the SA Women’s Masters, Matharu from England converted three top five finishes in her maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour win at the Ladies Tshwane Open and Williams was back to her winning ways in the season-opening SuperSport Ladies Challenge.
However, 2014 champion Monique Smit could be the dark horse to watch. The three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner showed great form in the first five events and home comforts could just tip the scales and give the home crowd lots to cheer about come Sunday.
Picture of Pace courtesy of Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images