19th June 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
SA trio line up at Pinehurst
19 June 2014 – Investec Cup for Ladies champion Lee-Anne Pace, three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Ashleigh Simon and rookie Nicole Garcia will be among the world’s top female golfers lining up the first round of the US Women’s Open Championship in North Carolina today.
While Pace and Simon earned automatic exemption via the Ladies European Tour, Garcia had to fight 72 other hopefuls for one of eight spots on offer at the Sectional Qualifier Europe at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club last month.
Although the bookies seem to favour Imbee Park, Lydia Ko, Jessica Korda, Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, former Ladies European Tour number one and eight-time champion Pace brings a wealth of experience to Pinehurst Number Two.
Pace has the nerves and a solid game and, having campaigned on the LPGA Tour over the last two months, has never been more prepared for the second Major of the season. The Pearl Valley professional had her first look at the tough layout when she caught some of the US Open action and believes the keys to success this week will be accuracy and the proficiency with the short stick.
“The course is amazing, but very tough,” Pace said. “The fairways are dry in patches and the greens are firming up, so driving accuracy and putting will be key this week. The greens are fast and you need to hit the ball in the right place.
“Some of the guys were aggressive, while others weren’t, but the biggest difference was that the winner hit a lot of fairways and made a lot of putts inside 10 feet.”
Pace believes her past US Women’s Open experience will count for a lot this year.
“I definitely think my past experience will help me this week,” she said. “I am starting to know what suits me in Majors and what I am capable of. The Majors require the utmost amount of patience, respect of the course and commitment of the shots.
“I feel like the course sets up well for me as I have a good short game and my driving is usually very straight. The nerves are also a lot less, so I do not feel so overwhelmed anymore.
“I think having a couple of LPGA events behind me now has also helped me prepare better.”
Pace has kept her philosophy for the week simple.
“This week will require high soft shots, while the Ricoh Women’s British Open in a few weeks will require low running shots, so completely opposite strategies,” Pace explained.
“My game plan this week will be the same for any tournament. Play every single shot to the best of my ability, and take it one shot at a time.”
Like Pace, Garcia is determined to keep things simple.
“I don’t have any expectations, other than to enjoy my first Major,” the 23-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer said. “This week represents a unique chance for me to watch the world’s best golfers and to gain a massive amount of experience. I just want to make the most of the opportunity.”
PHOTOS – Investec Cup for Ladies champion, Lee-Anne Pace, and Sunshine Ladies Tour rookie, Nicole Garcia; credit Luke Walker.