SANYA, China – South African Lee-Anne Pace returned to the summit of European women’s golf on Sunday when she shot a six-under-par 66 to win the Sanya Ladies Open in China.
With her fourth victory of the season, she moved to first place on the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson Money List ahead of England’s Laura Davies.
The 29-year-old from Mossel Bay ended on 11-under-par 205 after three rounds at Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya, Hainan Province, for a one-shot victory over Austria’s Stefanie Michl, playing in temperatures of 44°C at midday.
Pace began the final round four shots behind Michl but she had already tied for the lead with her fourth birdie at the day at the ninth hole.
With three straight birdies from the 12th, Michl moved two ahead, but she dropped a shot at the 15th and Pace then birdied the next hole to tie for the lead.
After keeping her cool in the hot and humid conditions all day, Michl missed the 18th green with her approach shot and was unable to get up and down, leaving Pace two putts to ensure victory.
“I can’t believe it. I’m a little bit overwhelmed. I didn’t quite expect to win today but I wanted to get a little bit of a chase, which I did, so I’m just over the moon,” said Pace, who had already claimed the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe and Finnair Masters this year.
“It was a tight finish. I was still a couple of shots behind and she had three birdies in a row and then I missed my birdie putt, so she was two ahead, and then fortunately I made a bunker save on 15, which was good.”
With her winnings of €30,000, Pace moved €25,962 ahead of Davies, who has also won four times this season, on the Henderson Money List. With Davies skipping next week’s Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open in Suzhou, China, Pace will have another opportunity to climb further ahead.
“It was a goal to come and win this week, or finish top five, just get a little bit ahead. Now I’ve done that, so we move on to the next one,” she said.
“Next week, I’m still going to go for the win. I’ve played there before, I really enjoy the course. I like the place and feel very comfortable there, so I think it’s going to be good. I’m hitting the ball really well.”
Michl’s round of one-under 71 saw her earn her best finish in four seasons on the Ladies European Tour and she said: “There were a lot of good things. I had a good match out there with Lee-Anne and me and I thought she played really well. In the end, I just didn’t pull off the shots I needed to. On 10 and 11 I didn’t sink putts that were really short and I should have made birdies there. The holes coming in, when I felt the pressure a little bit, just my approaches weren’t as good as hers. In the end I was a shot short.”
“Of course if you’re that close, you want to pull it off and win it. You know, it’s a good result and I’m happy with the way it is.”
Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum (67) was third on eight-under-par and Australian Nikki Garrett (69) was a shot back in fourth. England’s Florentyna Parker shot a final round of 73 and slipped back into a tie for fifth place with Scotland’s Vikki Laing (67), South Korean Jeehae Lee (67) and Thailand’s Russamee Gulyanamitta (68).
China’s teen sensation Lin Xiyu was also within striking distance to go for a win but faltered on the homestretch to sign off with a 2-under 70 for a 211 total and share the ninth spot with the Netherlands’ Christel Boeljon and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Tzu Chi.
“This is my biggest and toughest experience and I’m glad that I did not panic and played to my strength and not go overboard,” she the 14-year old, adding that she now looks with confidence of leading China’s charge in the Asian Games in Guangzhao next month.
Spain’s Belen Mozo, who was invited to the event, recorded the first hole-in-one of her short professional career at the third hole using a six-iron and finished on one-under-par in a share of 16th place overall.