19th October 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Pace wins Cell C SA Womenâ€™s Open
However, the Pearl Valley golfer said that the memory of the winning putt at San Lameer Country Club will keep the South African smiling long into the week at the Blue Bay LPGA this week.
The South African broke the international stranglehold in the national championship and claimed her ninth Ladies European Tour title when she defeated England’s Holly Clyburn at the second hole of a sudden-death play-off on Sunday.
Pace wiped out a four shot deficit with a spirited charge down the back nine to close with a four-under-par 68 and set the clubhouse target at five under 211.
Clyburn racked up 16 pars and two birdies for a 70 and a share of lead at the end of regulation play.
On the first extra trip down the 18th, both players knocked it close and walked off with pars, but it was on the return to the 351 yard 18th that South Africa’s top golf export ended the young English player’s hopes of a second Ladies European Title.
Clyburn splashed her approach from the middle of the fairway in the drink around the island green, while Pace pitched a wedge from 94 yards to three feet behind the pin.
After taking the required drop, the English player lagged her first putt to three feet, but her bogey attempt lipped out, leaving the stage clear for Pace to knock in the winning putt to the delight of the roaring home crowd.
It was an emotional victory for the former LET number one, who interrupted her LPGA Tour campaign in China to fly home in support of the Ladies European Tour and WPGA co-sanctioned event in her native country.
“I never won the SA Amateur or the SA Stroke Play and it has always been my dream to win the SA Women’s Open,” a delighted Pace gushed. “It was definitely one of my goals this year and to finally do it, with so many lovely people supporting me, is just a dream come true.”
Pace launched her bid at the par-five 13th, where she hit a five-wood from 212 yards and knocked in a 20-footer for eagle to get within a shot Clyburn.
“My caddie Andy and I stood in the fairway and we didn’t even think about it,” Pace said. “I was about three shots behind and I was never going to lay up. Andy made a good call there and I made a good putt and that was that.”
Clyburn responded with a birdie at the 13th to pull two shots clear, but Pace closed the gap again at the 16th. She pitched a seven-iron from 150 yards to 12 feet and made the birdie.
“I had a chance at the 17th to even the score, but my putt lipped out,” Pace said. “I knew it had to happen at the 18th. I saw that Holly was still five under, so I knew I had to birdie the last hole to have a chance.
“I drove it straight down the middle and had 108 yards to the pin. I pitched it three-feet below the hole and made the putt. Then the long, nervy wait began to see what Holly would do.”
The Gauteng amateur carded rounds of 77, 76 and 73 while the French amateur posted 75, 73 and 78.
Pace pocketed a first prize cheque worth R672,000 in the first counting event on the 2015 Sunshine Ladies Tour and also leads the 2015 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies.
“What a great news day for me and women’s golf,” said the reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion.
“The SA Women’s Open is now part of the Sunshine Ladies Tour and it’s the first counting event on the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies, but the WPGA and LET also announced that the SA Women’s Open has been extended to 2021. What a huge boost for women’s professional golf in South Africa.”
(1) South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace won the Cell C SA Women’s Open in a playoff at San Lameer Country Club on Sunday; credit: Justin Klusener.
(2) 2014 Cell C South African Women’s Open champion, Lee-Anne Pace, and Gauteng amateur Swanelle de Lange, who shared the leading amateur honours; credit Justin Klusener.