Former champion Lee-Anne Pace took control of the Investec South African Women’s Open on Friday and opened up a two-shot lead on the chasing pack at Westlake Golf Club on Friday.
The nine-time Ladies European Tour winner mixed five birdies with a solitary bogey for a four-under-par 68 and she will start the final round in familiar territory, having previously lifted the SA Open title in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Playing alongside Pace in the final group on Saturday will be two fearless rookies, who both navigated the tight, tree-lined layout in flawless round.
Indian left-hander Diksha Dagar took route 66 to move into second on two-under with a low round of the tournament and Esther Henseleit, whose five-under 67 lifted the German to third on her own on one-under.
Pace set herself a second round goal of four-under after a battling even-par 72 in the windy conditions on the first day. “I really wanted to be in contention, especially here in Cape Town where I have some family and friends watching,” said Pace. “I’m so pleased I was able to achieve it.”
After strong winds blowing up to 50 km per hour played havoc with the afternoon field in the first round, the morning starters arrived to sunny, wind still conditions on the famed course at the foot of Table Mountain for the second round
Pace was one of only a handful of players to take advantage of early the scoring opportunities and in what should serve as an ominous warning to her pursuers, the 11-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner felt that the hard work she had put in over the off-season has given her complete control of her game.
“I’m shaping the ball nicely both ways and I’m feeling like I have a lot of control on my approach shots, which is key because some of these greens are quite small. I didn’t miss many shots today,” she explained. “I left a few putts out there and didn’t take advantage of the par fives I hit in two, so there is still room for improvement.”
Dagar turned professional in December last year after obtaining her LET card at Qualifying School.
She was four-over after the first three holes on day one, but settled quickly after the nervous start and signed for a 76. The 19-year-old former World Deaf Championship winner and 2017 Summer Deaflympics silver medallist showed none of the first round nerves as she went around the course in 66 strokes.
“I was on fire today,” said Dagar. “I only missed one green so I had a lot of birdie opportunities. I had trouble reading the greens in the first round, but I read them really well today. The grain slopes away from the mountain to the sea.
“I really attacked the flags and I hit almost every approach inside 15 feet. I’m happy that I was able to make some putts. It’s the first time that I’m playing in the leading group, so I am just going to shut out what the others are doing and play my own game.”
Twenty-year-old Henseleit is one of the most exciting young talents on the LET, having turned professional with an impressive handicap of plus seven.
The German racked up birdies on two, seven, eight, 13 and 16 to put herself in contention to claim her maiden Ladies European Tour title.
“I’m really happy to be where I am,” beamed the former PING Junior Solheim Cup player. “It’s only my fourth start in the pro ranks. I can’t wait to play in the final group. I’m going to go out there and have fun.”
Former Ladies European Tour winners Lydia Hall of Wales and Astrid Vayson de Pradenne of France sit a shot behind the German at level par, alongside England’s Charlotte Thompson.
There are a further four players within five shots of the lead, including two-time Ladies European Tour champion Carly Booth and Meghan MacLaren, who defended her Women’s New South Wales Open title in Australia last week.
Defending champion Ashleigh Buhai is the next best-placed South African. The three-time winner carded a level-par 72 to finish at three-over, one shot ahead of compatriot Stacy Bregman and.
Kajal Mistry was the only amateur to make the cut to 50 and ties, which fell at 10-over,
The GolfRSA Elite Squad player is five over after rounds of 73 and 76.
Mistry is the guaranteed winner of the Jackie Mercer Trophy for the leading amateur and she could overtake Lejan Lewthwaite for second in the Investec Property Fund Order of Merit if she finishes in the top 40 after the SA Women’s Masters champion missed the cut.