South Africa’s top golf export Lee-Anne Pace cruised to her second successive title in the R100,000 Ladies Tshwane Open on Tuesday. The world number 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 respective rounds of 73 and 74. 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.
Pace said: ‘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. 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 Cell C 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, the Pearl Valley golfer 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. Pace said: ‘One of my goals this season was to defend my title. It was such an unbelievable feeling last year to lift the first title, and I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that 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. Pace said: ‘We had a lot more international participation this year on the Sunshine Ladies Tour. If the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryem Cup didn’t follow immediately after the Investec Cup for Ladies, I am sure that the English players that qualified would have stayed to compete. Hopefully we can continue to grow the Tour and see even more of them out here next year.’
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. The delighted Richards said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled. I didn’t actually believe I made it until they called my name out at prize giving. The last seven weeks has been an incredible experience and 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, Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Glendower champion Nicole Garcia, Bredenhann, England’s Lucy Williams, Nobuhle Dlamini, Kim Williams, Monique Smit and Richards. And Richards could be the dark horse to watch on 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.
140 – Lee-Anne Pace 69 71
145 – Melissa Eaton 71 74
148 – Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 75 73, Tiffany Avern-Taplin 74 74
149 – Lucy Williams (ENG) 79 70, Nicole Garcia 77 72
150 – Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 76 74
Photo: 2015 Ladies Tshwane Open champion Lee-Anne Pace
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA.