South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace and local amateur Lizzie Currie work on their bunker play on the beach near San Lameer. Both will be playing in this week’s Cell C South African Women’s Open, which tees off at San Lameer Country Club on Thursday. Credit: Justin Klusener.

South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace is more determined than ever to win the Cell C South African Women’s Open, which tees off at San Lameer Country Club on Thursday.

At a time of growth for local women’s professional golf, Pace is keenly aware of her place in this and the stimulus a victory in her national Open could provide.

“A victory here was definitely one of my goals this year,” said Pace, who leads a large South African contingent in an international field featuring eight winners on the Ladies European Tour this year, all of whom are vying for the R4.5 million in prizemoney.

“Women’s golf is growing so much. There’s talk of more tournaments and so many things in the pipeline, which is good for us. So I’ve prepared well for it this year to peak at exactly this time. I’m hitting the ball really well at the moment.”

The weather forecast predicts strong winds on Friday, but Pace says she’s ready for whatever comes her way this week.

“If the wind comes up it will be challenging, but my swing is good enough now to shape the shots and hit it high or low, so I can’t see any major trouble there. The greens are small so you have to focus on hitting them in regulation. I think if I can get through the first two rounds with a decent score, then I can go low on the weekend.”

American Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, is hoping to make a greater impact this year as well, returning as a maiden winner on the Ladies European Tour.

“I’m real excited to be back. Unfortunately last year I missed the cut and the tournament was reduced. But just being back is great. The people and how they make you feel when you’re here is really special.”

And Woods says she’s also noticed the upsurge in the South African women’s game through this event.

“You’re seeing more improvement every year with the sponsors and the event itself, so it’s great to see that there is so much support for women’s golf here in South Africa, and they want us back and they want the event to be bigger and better.”

Norway’s Marianne Skarpnord is the defending champion, having won this tournament when it had to be decided over 18 holes last year because of heavy rain.

“I haven’t played that well this year, but I’m getting there. Hopefully I can pull it off this week. I played with rental clubs in my practice round because my clubs hadn’t shown up yet. But I like the course a lot.”

The field for this 72-hole tournament also includes South Africans Ashleigh Simon, Connie Chen and Stacy Bregman, English professional and 23-time Ladies European Tour winner Trish Johnson, and young English star Charley Hull.