South Africa’s top golf export, Lee-Anne Pace, cruised to her second successive title in the R100 000 Ladies Tshwane Open yesterday.
The world No 31 stretched a two-shot overnight advantage to a five-stroke victory over KwaZulu-Natal’s Melissa Eaton at Pretoria Country Club.
Pace finished with an effortless one-under-par 71 to claim her third Sunshine Ladies Tour title this season on four-under 140.
Eaton signed off with a 74 to finish three strokes clear of Bonita Bredenhann from Namibia and fellow KZN golfer Tiffany Avern-Taplin, who shared third after rounds of 73 and 74 respectively.
Pace navigated her way to the turn with nine successive pars, and notched her first birdie at the par-four 10th. She boxed her only other gain at the par-four 15th, and the six on her card at the 18th did little to detract from the Pearl Valley golfer’s delight.
“It wasn’t the ideal way to finish, but I always looked at making bogey after I hit it to the wrong side of the green,” Pace said.
“It doesn’t matter to me one bit. I wanted to get this one in the bag, and it was great to get the job done. Nothing beats coming home and competing on home soil, and I had a great time out there today with some of my family and friends in support.”
The SA Women’s Open Championship victory netted Pace 400 points, and she earned 250 points for her SuperSport Ladies Challenge win last week. Following the Ladies Tshwane Open triumph, Pace rose to third in the Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies standings.
With 900 points in hand, she is within striking distance of Eaton, who leapfrogged three-time winner Stacy Bregman and leads with 1 021 points.
The Ladies Tshwane Open victory has left Pace even more eager to take up her title defence in the Investec Cup for Ladies on Friday.
“One of my goals this season was to defend my title,” Pace said. “It was such an unbelievable feeling last year to lift the first title, and I wanted to close the gap on Stacy and Melissa in the last two tournaments. I’m really pleased to have done it.”
Investec raised the stakes for this year’s Investec Cup for Ladies by offering a R600 000 bonus pool in addition to the R100 000 purse.
Pace believes the added incentive has raised the bar on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.
“We had a lot more international participation this year on the Sunshine Ladies Tour,” she said. “If the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryem Cup didn’t follow immediately after the Investec Cup for Ladies, I am sure the English players who qualified would have stayed to compete.”
Meanwhile, Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie Monja Richards battled her way into the 10th qualifying spot for the limited field Investec Cup for Ladies.
The Nelspruit player carded rounds of 76 and 79 to edge out Iliska Verwey, Morgana Robbertze and former SA Women’s Open champion Tandi von Ruben.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said a delighted Richards.
“I didn’t actually believe I made it until they called my name out at prize giving. I am so excited to be in the final.”
The full field contesting this year’s Investec Cup for Ladies title are Eaton, Bregman, Pace, Nicole Garcia, Bredenhann, England’s Lucy Williams, Nobuhle Dlamini, Kim Williams, Monique Smit and Richards.
Richards could be the dark horse to watch at the weekend when the Investec Cup for Ladies moves to Sun City.
The first round will be played at the Millvale Private Retreat on Friday, but the last two rounds will be contested at the Lost City Golf Course, where Richards led the first round of the Sun International Ladies Challenge and finished in a tie for third in her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut.