16th February 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Birthday girl Pace eyes Di-Data double
On Valentineâ€™s Day she spoiled her loved ones and on Wednesday, it was her turn to be pampered, but on Thursday, South Africaâ€™s top ranked Lee-Anne Pace was all business ahead of the Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Challenge in George.
â€œIt was great to treat everyone on Tuesday and to have the favour returned on my birthday, but now we itâ€™s time to get serious about winning,â€ said the 36-year-old.
The 54-hole event tees off at George Golf Club on Friday and defending champion dearly wants to be in the driverâ€™s seat when the final round moves to the Outeniqua Course at Fancourt on Sunday.
â€œThe Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Pro-Am is one of my most favourite weeks of the year,â€ said Pace. â€œI love coming back because I learned the game down here on the Garden Route and I also love the social element of this week.
â€œItâ€™s a different kind of week, because the Sunshine Tourâ€™s Dimension Data Pro-Am is on at the same time, so we all meet up at the fantastic functions Dimension Data puts on every night. Itâ€™s really great to catch up with everyone and we meet lots of new people. Itâ€™s a very social week that lets you leave the golf behind and have a little fun. I think combination of competitiveness and socialising contributes to my positive attitude and thatâ€™s why I always do well here.â€
Itâ€™s a big week for Pace, who is gunning for a fourth successive Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
â€œThe runner-up finish at the Cape Town Ladies Open last week definitely help my position in the points, but I am feeling the pressure,â€ she said. â€œWhen Dimension Data boosted the purse from to R500Â 000, they did me a huge favour, because a win this week will strengthen my chances.â€
Pace ranks fourth in the points, but current leader Ashleigh Buhai has a 600 point advantage.
â€œAsh is away playing the LPGA Tourâ€™s Australian Open, but next week Iâ€™m off to play the LPGA Tour in Thailand and Singapore,â€ Pace said. â€œIt there was ever a time to win, itâ€™s this week. If I can pocket the 650 points for the win, I can overtake Ash and I need it.
â€œIâ€™ll miss the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic, sponsored by Canon, next week and the Sun International Ladies Challenge, but Iâ€™ll be back in time for the Ladies Joburg Open the week before the final. A good finish at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington will hopefully give me enough points to challenge for the Chase to the Investec Cup title again.
â€œThe big work starts tomorrow and Iâ€™m up for it. I was a little scratchy after the long break, but the putter was hot last week and the rest of my game is in good shape.â€
The raised stakes has certainly inspired the three-time SA Womenâ€™s Open champion, but Pace can expect some fierce opposition. Buhai might be in Australia, but Kiran Matharu, Carrie Park and Kim Williams â€“ ranked second, third and fifth in the points standings â€“ will also be gunning for repeat success.
Park from South Korea triumphed at the SA Womenâ€™s Masters, Matharu from England converted three top five finishes in her maiden Sunshine Ladies Tour win at the Ladies Tshwane Open and Williams was back to her winning ways in the season-opening SuperSport Ladies Challenge.
However, 2014 champion Monique Smit could be the dark horse to watch. The three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner showed great form in the first five events and home comforts could just tip the scales and give the home crowd lots to cheer about come Sunday.
PHOTO â€“ Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Challenge defending champion Lee-Anne Pace; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.