The Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final is heading for a thrilling climax with at least four players aiming to dethrone current point’s leader Lee-Anne Pace at Millvale Private Retreat this week. Ladies Tshwane Open champion Monique Smit cut Pace’s lead of 1 600 points to just 70, while Ashleigh Simon moved within 475 of the double Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion after a third place finish in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge on Friday. England’s Rebecca Hudson – the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s first foreign champion – has 1 020 points and rookie Bertine Strauss lags just 628 points behind Pace after successive victories in the Sun International Ladies Challenge and SuperSport Ladies Challenge.
Pace enjoyed podium finishes in all four of her starts this season to take her tally to nine successive victories, but with 1 000 points on offer for this week’s winner, she will have a target on her back. The LPGA Tour winner says: ‘I believe this will be the most exciting final since the Sunshine Ladies Tour launched in 2014. Monique, Ashleigh and Rebecca have had some great results. Bertine burst into the top five as we expected her too, and it’s never been as tight at the top as this year. The girls were going deep this year and the standard was much higher than in the past. Winning was certainly not as easy as in the past and I’ve really enjoyed the tough competition. I definitely expect the girls in the top five to come for me, especially Monique and Ashleigh, who have a realistic chance of winning the final event and the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies. But I am gunning for a hat-trick and I’m not going to make it easy for them to beat me.’ Smit comes into the event with a victory, second and third place and three more top five finishes in her eight starts, while Simon had three runner-up finishes and two third place finishes in five events.
Both players followed Pace’s campaign at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Thailand last week and will take a bit more confidence to Millvale after Pace slipped from joint third in the first round to joint 44th on the last day. Smit says: ‘It’s funny, because normally we would be rooting for Lee-Anne and willing her to win. I must admit that with a Bonus Pool of R1-million and a winner-takes-all prize of R100 000, it does give you an added bit of confidence to see that Lee-Anne can also have a few bad rounds. If she gets off to her usual fast start, she is tough to beat and we could all be playing catch-up. But we also know that Lee-Anne gets more dangerous as the tournament progresses. I can’t control what Lee-Anne does this week. The only thing I have any control over is what I do with my opportunities.’ Simon believes that, unlike the last two years, the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies final is wide open this year.
The Edenvale golfer says: ‘It’s hugely exciting. If everyone is at the top of their game, as I expect them to be, this one could go down the wire. The most important thing this week will be to focus on your own game, to forget about the leaderboard and to leave nothing out there.’
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour