Lee-Anne Pace is back on home turf this week aiming for her fourth straight Investec South African Women’s Open trophy.
The prestigious national championship has returned to the Ladies European Tour schedule after a three-year hiatus as a jointly sanctioned event with the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Women’s PGA of South Africa (WPGA).
Pace places a particular relevance on winning her national crown and says: “It would be such an honour to win another South African Open. It is a goal of mine every year to defend this title and I really hope to do so again. We have a strong field playing, so it is going to be tough, but I will be out there giving it my best.
“I don’t get many opportunities to play at home, let alone in front of family and friends, so it will be a real treat. Their support means the world to me and I would not have been where I am in my life without them.”
Pace romped to a third straight South African title at San Lameer Country Club on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast last year and won by seven strokes from compatriot Ashleigh Buhai, with fellow South African Stacy Bregman and England’s Rebecca Hudson tied for third.
This year, the championship moves to Westlake Golf Club in the city of Cape Town and it’s a course where she enjoyed success as an amateur.
The 37-year-old from Mossel Bay said: “I played there a long time ago and actually won the Western Province Amateur Champs there, so I already have some good memories and feelings about it. It can be tough when the wind blows, which is almost always.”
Having captured her 12th Sunshine Ladies Tour title with a play-off victory over Anne-Lise Caudal in the Cape Town Ladies Open at Royal Cape four weeks ago, Pace will feel at home in the city.
The nine-time LET winner, who won the tour’s order of merit in 2010, said: “I’m happy with where I’m at for this time of year. I did some solid work with my coach, James Petts, in January, before the Sunshine Ladies Tour kicked off. I’ve played a couple of events here at home and had a win in Cape Town which was nice. It’s always nice to get a win early on in the season. I went to Australia to play an LPGA event and after that I’ve had a couple of weeks at home to prepare for the Investec SA Open.”
The R2 million prize money earned this week will count towards both the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and the tournament will also provide valuable Rolex Ranking points, contributing towards qualification for the two European women’s Majors.
Commenting on the growth of the championship, Pace said: “It’s so great to see big companies support women’s golf in SA. I am especially proud of Investec who have raised the bar this year by turning the SA Open back into a co-sanctioned event with the LET. It has created so much opportunity and we are all delighted to take part. The Sunshine Ladies Tour has created a platform for pros and amateurs to develop into better golfers and for players playing overseas to be readier when we go back to the other tours. It is growing in prize funds, size and strength of fields every year and I am excited to see what the future holds. It has personally helped me a lot with my focus and preparation for the year ahead.”
As well as Pace, some of the other headline names in the field include former champion Ashleigh Buhai, Solheim Cup player Florentyna Parker, 2017 Rookie of the Year Camille Chevalier, two-time LET champion Kylie Henry, LET rookies Marita Engzelius and Silvia Bañon, who tied for second in the Women’s New South Wales Open and home hopes Stacy Bregman and Nicole Garcia.
The Investec South African Women’s Open will be contested from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th March 2018 and will echo Investec Property’s vision to promote women in sport with the hash tag #BuildingWomenChampions.