Lee-Anne Pace Through To US Women’s Open Weekend

It was touch and go down the back straight of Pinehurst Number Two, but South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace squeezed into the starting line-up at the US Women’s Open Championship in North Carolina on Friday.  The Investec Cup for Ladies champion carded rounds of 76 and 73 at Pinehurst Number Two for a 36-hole total of nine-over-par 149 to make the cut on the number.  Pace notched just two birdies in her opening round at the tough par-70 layout to offset double bogeys at the par-four eighth and 12th holes and four bogeys.

Having had to return to the course to complete her last hole in the first round early on Friday morning, Pace hardly had time to sit down to breakfast before the second round got underway.  The 33-year-old Pearl Valley golfer traded bogeys for birdies from the second to fifth holes and cancelled another bogey at the eighth with a birdie at the ninth to turn in even-par.  She dropped more shots at the 11th, 12th and 16th holes, but two solid pars at the 17th and 18th holes kept her on the positive side of the cut.

Her best performance in the US Women’s Open was a tie for 55th in 2011 and she has since pushed her winning tally to nine victories, including three in 2013.  “I played well, but I had some bad lies in the fairways.  My short game was very good, though.  I made some great putts and saves to stay inside the cut.  Hopefully I can move up on the weekend,” said Pace, who hit 12 out of 14 fairways in the second round and needed only 28 putts.  Unfortunately it was a short week for compatriots Ashleigh Simon and rookie Nicole Garcia.

Three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Simon opened with a 77 and added a second 74 to finish two shots outside the cutline.  “Not the few days I was hoping for at the US Open.  You couldn’t afford not to pitch up with your A-game this week and I just didn’t play well enough,” the 23-year-old Joburg pro said.  Garcia, who qualified for the championship at the Sectional Qualifier Europe at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club, carded rounds of 78 and 77 in her major championship debut.

“I’m really sad that I didn’t perform better and that my time here is officially over.  Thanks to everyone who supported me, though, and I hope I can make you proud in the next couple of tournaments,” said the Ekurhuleni player.  Meanwhile Michelle Wie birdied her final two holes to overtake first round leader, Stacy Lewis, for the lead.  Wie’s successive rounds of 68 put her at four-under-par 136 and three strokes clear of Lexi Thompson, who is chasing her second Major title of the season.

Photo credit: Luke Walker