South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace is ideally placed to seal back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Ladies Tour after taking pole position in the first round of the Ladies Tshwane Open on Monday. The reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion claimed a one stroke victory in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge last week and strengthened her bid for successive titles with an opening three-under-par 69 at Pretoria Country Club. Pace is two strokes clear of Melissa Eaton. The KwaZulu-Natal golfer led the field at three under through nine holes, but lost the advantage with a double bogey six at the 10th.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Tiffany Avern-Taplin and Zimbabwean amateur Sarah Blythe-Wood are tied for third on 74. Having never played the Waterkloof layout, Pace relied heavily on her caddie, Wanna Be A Champion Academy assistant coach Henriette Frylinck. The world number 30 negated a pair of bogeys on the front nine with birdies at the fifth and ninth holes and turned in even-par.
Pace, who snared three birdies on the back nine for a flawless loop of 33, said: ‘A little birdie told me on the ninth fairway that Melissa was three under, so I knew I had to push a little harder. I made a solid birdie at the ninth to get back to level par and chipped in for birdie at the 10th after I hit a hybrid into the 10th, but over-shot the green. That got my momentum going. I made solid pars all the way in, but it was nice to birdie both the par fives. I had wedges into both holes and boxed a nice 15-footer at the 18th for birdie. I’m pleased that I’ve put myself in a good position for the final round, but it could have been better. I made a couple of mistakes laying up, because I don’t know the course and I wasn’t certain how far the ball would go. I feel very comfortable over the putter and when I have any iron in my hand, I feel confident that I can control the distance. I let a few slip, but I think I can round off nicely in the final round.’ With Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader Stacy Bregman absent this week, Pace has put a premium on winning in the final counting event for the Investec Cup for Ladies. The LPGA champions said: ‘Stacy tops the rankings with 988 points after her three victories. I managed to close the gap somewhat with the 250 points I earned with the win at Zwartkop, but I’m still 338 points behind Stacy. Another 250 points for a win tomorrow will come in very handy going into the Investec Cup for Ladies on Friday.’
Only the top 10 players in the rankings following the Ladies Tshwane Open will qualify to compete for the R100 000 purse and R600 000 bonus pool in the 54-hole season-finale at Millvale Private Retreat and the Lost City Golf Course. Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann, ranked ninth, is still handily placed after opening with a 75. However, 14th placed Monja Richards and 16th ranked Morgana Robbertze opened with 76s to put pressure on Monique Smit, who currently occupies the 10th spot, but is under pressure after carding a first round 80.
FIRST ROUND SCORES
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified:
69 – Lee-Anne Pace
71 – Melissa Eaton
74 – Sarah Blythe-Wood AMA (ZIM), Tiffany Avern-Taplin
75 – Bonita Bredenhann (NAM)
76 – Morgana Robbertze, Monja Richards, Chevonne Botha, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ)
Photo: Reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion Lee-Anne Pace
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA