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28th March 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Garcia & Pace in prime position

Sunshine Ladies TourSouth Africa’s Nicole Garcia fired a six-under-par 65 to vault to second in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco, while compatriot Lee-Anne Pace cruised to a flawless 67 to tie for 12th in Kia Classic on the LPGA Tour on Friday.

On another low scoring day at the sun-kissed Golf de l’Ocean in Agadir, Garcia and 2014 runner-up Gwladys Nocera from France capitalised in the perfect conditions with 65s.

Nocera took pole position at nine-under-par 133, while Garcia finished a further stroke adrift.

The South African birdied the first and third holes, eagled the par-five sixth and reeled in further gains at seven and eight. She notched another birdie at the 11th, but gave the shot back at the 16th.

The solid start set her up for the weekend, but Garcia is keeping her expectations low.

“I was hoping to keep it going on the back nine, but the wind picked up a little bit,” Garcia said. I missed the cut last year, so my only priority was to make the weekend. Now I don’t really have any expectations. I’m just going to play on the weekend and see what I can do.”

Garcia carried some great form into the Ladies European Tour event after five top 10 finishes on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, a maiden breakthrough in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower and third place in the season-ending Investec Cup for Ladies.

In a frank interview during the Sunshine Ladies Tour, Garcia admitted that her first year on the Ladies European Tour was a mental baptism of fire.

She worked hard on the mental side of the game with her coach Doug Wood from Wanna Be A Champion Academy, who also coaches Tshwane Open champion George Coetzee.

Playing in the US Women’s Open and the Sunshine Ladies Tour has further added to her confidence.

“I feel much better equipped to handle the pressure this year,” Garcia said. Before I went to Europe, I had limited experience playing abroad. We didn’t have a local Tour to prepare properly and I tried to hard to make cuts in the first six months.

“After qualifying for the US Women’s Open and playing in the United States, I felt more confident, but unfortunately I didn’t have a full card, so I ran out of tournaments to keep my card.

Going back to Q-School was probably a very good thing, because I did really well and got a sense of belonging. It definitely showed in my results on the Sunshine Ladies Tour. Even when I wasn’t performing at my best, I still scored well enough to finish in the top 10 in seven of my nine starts.”

Fellow South Africans Stacy Bregman and Monique Smit will join Garcia for the final stretch.

Bregman, a three-time winner this season, carded a 70 to move to one under, while Smit improved five strokes on an opening 75 to claim a share of 56th with defending champion Charley Hull on three over.

Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Kim Williams, and Investec Cup for Ladies qualifiers Bonny Bredenhann from Namibia and England’s Lucy Williams all missed the cut, set at three-over-par 145.

2014CICLG_LeeAnnePaceSLTMeanwhile LPGA Tour winner Pace reeled in five birdies on her way to a bogey-free 67 at the Kia Classic.

The reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion is just four strokes adrift of 36-hole pacesetters, Morgan Pressel and Mirim Lee.

Pressel fired an eight-under-par 64 at the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad to join overnight leader Lee at 10 under 134 after the Korean returned a 69.

Fellow South African Paula Reto carded rounds of 71 and 72 to finish on the cut-line at one-under-par 143, however compatriot Ashleigh Simon crashed out with rounds of 77 and 74.

PHOTOS – Nicole Garcia and Lee-Anne Pace; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA