16th March 2015 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Pace on mark at Ladies Tshwane Open
The reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion claimed a one stroke victory in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge last week and strengthened her bid for successive titles with an opening three-under-par 69 at Pretoria Country Club.
Pace is two strokes clear of Melissa Eaton. The KwaZulu-Natal golfer led the field at three under through nine holes, but lost the advantage with a double bogey six at the 10th.
KwaZulu-Natalâ€™s Tiffany Avern-Taplin and Zimbabwean amateur Sarah Blythe-Wood are tied for third on 74.
Having never played the Waterkloof layout, Pace relied heavily on her caddie, Wanna Be A Champion Academy assistant coach Henriette Frylinck.
The world number 30 negated a pair of bogeys on the front nine with birdies at the fifth and ninth holes and turned in even-par.
â€œA little birdie told me on the ninth fairway that Melissa was three under, so I knew I had to push a little harder,â€ said Pace, who snared three birdies on the back nine for a flawless loop of 33.
â€œI made a solid birdie at the ninth to get back to level par and chipped in for birdie at the 10th after I hit a hybrid into the 10th, but over-shot the green.
â€œThat got my momentum going. I made solid pars all the way in, but it was nice to birdie both the par fives. I had wedges into both holes and boxed a nice 15-footer at the 18th for birdie.
â€œIâ€™m pleased that Iâ€™ve put myself in a good position for the final round, but it could have been better. I made a couple of mistakes laying up, because I donâ€™t know the course and I wasnâ€™t certain how far the ball would go.
â€œI feel very comfortable over the putter and when I have any iron in my hand, I feel confident that I can control the distance. I let a few slip, but I think I can round off nicely in the final round.â€
With Chase to the 2015 Investec Cup for Ladies leader Stacy Bregman absent this week, Pace has put a premium on winning in the final counting event for the Investec Cup for Ladies.
â€œStacy tops the rankings with 988 points after her three victories,â€ the LPGA champion said.
â€œI managed to close the gap somewhat with the 250 points I earned with the win at Zwartkop, but Iâ€™m still 338 points behind Stacy.
â€œAnother 250 points for a win tomorrow will come in very handy going into the Investec Cup for Ladies on Friday.â€
Only the top 10 players in the rankings following the Ladies Tshwane Open will qualify to compete for the R100,000 purse and R600,000 bonus pool in the 54-hole season-finale at Millvale Private Retreat and the Lost City Golf Course.
Namibiaâ€™s Bonita Bredenhann, ranked ninth, is still handily placed after opening with a 75. However, 14th placed Monja Richards and 16th ranked Morgana Robbertze opened with 76s to put pressure on Monique Smit, who currently occupies the 10th spot, but is under pressure after carding a first round 80.
PHOTO â€“ Reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion Lee-Anne Pace; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA