28th January 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Hat-trick hero Pace signs off in style at SA Womenâ€™s Open
The final round stage at San Lameer Country Club belonged to Lee-Anne Pace, who marched to a historic SA Womenâ€™s Open hat-trick on Saturday.
An overnight lead of six strokes proved insurmountable for the chasing pack as Pace put on a class act on another windswept day on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast layout.
She shrugged off an early charge from compatriot Stacy Bregman and went around the layout in 72 strokes to close out a runaway seven stroke victory over Ashleigh Buhai on eight-under-par 208.
In raising the trophy, Pace wrote her name in the South African golfing annals as the first player to celebrate three successive victories in the national championship.
â€œMission accomplished,â€ Pace said through a beaming smile.
â€œI could stand here and hold this trophy forever. Ever since I won for the second time, I dreamt about this moment and to own a little piece of golf history in my home land is priceless.â€
Pace claimed her first title in 2014 and joined former champions Brenda Lunsford and Barbara Pestana as a double winner with back-to-back victories on the 2016 Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Knowing that she had a chance to become the first three-time winner, the Paarl golfer re-arranged her LPGA Tour schedule when the national championship was moved to January to form part of this yearâ€™s Sunshine Ladies Tour.
â€œIt has always been important to me to come home and support the Sunshine Ladies Tour,â€ said the three-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion. â€œI was going to play Hawaii, but when I heard the SA Womenâ€™s Open date moved, I changed my LPGA Tour schedule so I could go for the hat-trick.
â€œI always wanted to put my name on the SA Womenâ€™s Open trophy and it was pretty special when I won it for the first time. To win it three times is something I am incredibly proud of. To do it with so many people out there supporting me was really fantastic.â€
Pace laid the foundation for her hat-trick with an opening six-under-par 66, but said the last two rounds were tough.
â€œThe windy conditions in the last two days made it really tough and it certainly tested our patience,â€ Pace said. â€œYou had to keep your wits about yourself and play a very patient game. It got a bit tight on the front nine when Stacy birdied six and I dropped a shot.
â€œThat cut my lead to three shots, but I hung in there and once I made birdie at the 12th, I could relax a little and enjoy the crowd. It was so great to have so many people walking with us and it added to making this a very memorable moment.â€
Paceâ€™s third feat sees her tie Mandy Adamson, who won the championship in 1995, 1997 and 2002, and the 10-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion is already thinking about next year.
â€œIf nothing gets in the way, Iâ€™ll see you all back here at San Lameer to go for number four,â€ said Pace. â€œOn a serious note, there is one big champion of the SA Womensâ€™ Open that we have to thank. On behalf of all the players, I want to applaud Mayor Nomusa Mqwebu and the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality. They have stuck by us for the last five years and they have given us a fantastic championship every year.â€
If Pace was the main act of the day, Woo Ju Son definitely deserved the best supporting award.
The reigning number one junior returned rounds of 74, 73 and 78 to tie for ninth with professionals Monique Smit and Ivanna Samu at nine over 226 and the top 10 finish earned the 15-year-old from Country Club Johannesburg the Jackie Mercer Trophy as the leading amateur.
PHOTO â€“ SA Womenâ€™s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace and leading amateur Woo Ju Son with Councillor Nomusa Mqwebu, Mayor of the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality; credit Justin Klusener.
Official website: www.sawomensopen.co.za
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