Spurred on by five victories in 2010, in Switzerland, Wales, Finland and two in China, Ladies European Tour Henderson Money List leader Lee-Anne Pace is now reaching out for Major glory.
The title of choice is the Ricoh Women’s British Open, taking place for the first time at Carnoustie in Scotland, from July 28-31.
It has always been her favourite tournament and she hopes to secure a South African double by following fellow Mossel Bay golfer Louis Oosthuizen’s triumph at The Open Championship at St Andrews last year with a victory at the women’s equivalent.
“The British Open is probably my favourite tournament of the year. I am very excited and can’t wait to see Carnoustie. I have never played there before,” she said. If it blows, Lee-Anne will be in her element coming from the windy sea-side Mossel Bay club in South Africa, but her first Major challenge will be the Kraft Nabisco Championship, taking place March 31-April 3 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. She has also secured a spot at the U.S. Women’s Open, taking place July 7-10, at The Broadmoor (East Course) in Colorado Springs for capturing the Henderson Money List last year.
Pace is changing her playing schedule this year in order to fit in her new playing opportunities at the US Majors.
“I would like to focus on the majors and defending my titles. I am not going to play as many tournaments as last year as I was left rather tired by the end of the season. I will be traveling a little bit more to the US this year, but my main focus is still in Europe,” she explained.
She is looking forward to defending her first title at the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open at Golf Gerre Losone from June 16-19, followed by the Finnair Masters at Helsinki Golf Club from July 1-3.
“I love going to Switzerland,” she says. “After last year I was mentally quite tired and decided to take four weeks off completely. I am realistic and know it will take a bit of time to get back into it. It is nice to feel refreshed and I am excited about the upcoming season.
“I am very confident after the wins, but my expectations are the same. I have small goals and always try to take baby steps before I leap. In order to win there are a lot of other things you have to do well first to get you into that position. I try to focus on those things.
“My mental ability is better and so is my ball striking. I have been working for two years on getting more distance and it seems to have worked. My putting has always been fairly good, but because I am hitting the ball further and closer to the hole, I am making a lot more birdies which puts me closer to the top.”
Given her meteoric rise up the Rolex World Rankings last year, from 230th at the end of 2009 to 55th position at the end of 2010 and now 51st, it is little wonder that Lee-Anne feels she will be able to mix it with the best, such as the likes of World No.1 Yani Tseng, given time.
She tied for 30th at the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, tied for fifth at the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters and was joint 53rd at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
“I definitely think I can compete against the top players. I think if I stick to reaching my goals the result will speak for itself. I have played one LPGA event this year and it is very much different from Europe. The course was longer and the greens very fast and slopey. The vibe is also very different from that in Europe. Of course it will take time to adapt so a little patience will be required.
“I would to become one of the best players in the world and I realise that I have to work hard to get there. I think the hard work only starts now. I have put some ideals in place and have started working on them. Hopefully if I reach my goals the end result will take care of itself.”
Her next appearance on the Ladies European Tour is likely to be at the Turkish Ladies Open, taking place at National Golf Club in Antalya, from May 5-8.