Nicole Garcia will spearhead the South African challenge in the Xiamen International Ladies Open this weekend, while Lee-Anne Pace is well placed at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. As the 2015 Ladies European Tour season starts to wind down, spots for this year’s Qualifying School graduates are becoming scarce and Garcia is certainly making the most of her week at the Orient Golf and Country Club. The reigning Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion fired successive rounds of 71 grab a seat on the bus at two under 142 and is tied for 19th with eight players.
The South African lags seven shots behind China’s Jing Yan and Gwladys Nocera from France, who share the 36-hole lead at nine-under-par 135 after respective rounds of 65 and 68. The 19-year-old Yan from Shanghai enjoyed an eight-birdie fest to line up the chance of a maiden win, but overnight leader Nocera responded with four birdies to keep a share of pole position as she pursues a 15th LET victory. Connie Chen, meanwhile, followed an opening 73 with a 71 to finish joint 40th on even-par 144.
Garcia’s Wanna Be A Champion stable-mate Simon opened with a 75, but a 70 in round two lifted the Sunshine Ladies Tour champion from joint 84th to a tie for 52nd on one over 145. Pace enjoyed a well-deserved break at home in September, but got the rust off quickly with solid first round 71 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. The LPGA Tour champion mixed four birdies with two bogeys on Friday for a two under 69 to tie for 29th at two under 142.
Pearl Valley’s Pace is eight strokes adrift of Korea’s Ha Na Jung, who registered rounds of 67 ad 65 for a one stroke edge over Xi Yu Lin from China. World number one Inbee Park enjoyed a flurry of eight birdies for a 66 on Friday to pull within two strokes off the lead. Park, a two-time Major winner this season, shares third with Yani Tseng from Taiwan and American Alison Lee. Teen phenomena Lydia Ko, who is hunting a third successive victory after podium finishes in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open and Evian Champion, fired a flawless 65 to finish four off the pace at six under.
Pace’s compatriot Paula Reto opened with a disappointing 76 and looked in danger of missing the weekend action after two drops and a triple bogey at 10, but the Strand golfer wrestled her way back to the positive side of the cut-line. Reto reeled in a hat-trick of birdies from 11 to 13 and boxed with another birdie putt at 18 for a 71 to tie for 63rd on five over.
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA