20th January 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Stylish Pace seals Ladies Joburg Open victory
Lee-Anne Pace thrilled the crowd with a grandstand finish at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to reel in her seventh consecutive Ladies Tour title with victory in the Ladies Joburg Open on Wednesday.
The Pearl Valley golfer edged into the lead on 10 under with a birdie at the 10th hole on the West Course, but Bertine Strauss â€“ playing behind her in the final group â€“ birdied 15 to grab a share of the lead.
Pace shifted into high gear and showed the nerves and composureÂ of a true champion.
She boxed a 12-footer for birdie at 17 and lagged a 30 meter eagle putt to an inch from the cup at 18. She tapped tap in for birdie and a final round six-under-par 66 to claim a five stroke victory on 12-under-par 204.
Strauss bogeyed the last three holes for a 72 to take second, while first round leader Ashleigh Simonâ€™s 72 handed her third on 210.
Swazilandâ€™s Nobuhle Dlamini, Monique Smit and Stacy Bregman tied for fourth on 211 after posting respective rounds of 73, 69 and 67.
Pace started the final round a stroke off the pace from StraussÂ and tied for second with Kim Williams, Dlamini and Simon.
She reeled in a hat-trick of birdies from the second, and erased a bogey at the fifth with birdie at nine to start the back nine at nine-under with a one stroke lead over Strauss and two shots ahead of Simon.
â€œAshleigh played really well and birdied the 11th and 13th to tie me at 10 under, but I had no idea what Bertine was doing,â€ Pace said.
â€œAsh dropped a few shots, but I heard that Bertine was 10 under playing 15 when we got to the 17th tee box. There was every chance that she could birdie the par-five. I had my coach James Petts on the bag this week and I said to him we better step it up.
â€œI hit a great shot into 17 and when I saw the line, I told James I had this. I knew the putt would drop. I must admit, I felt the pressure at 18, but James cracked a joke that broke the tension.
â€œWe were discussing the pin position and I told him the pin was 4A. He looked at me and said â€œwhat hole are we on?â€ That just cracked me up.â€
Pace hit a solid approach pin high right and she had about 25 meters from the fringe of the green to the pin.
â€œI aimed to lag the putt close to give myself two putts for par, but the ball just kept going and parked right next to the hole,â€ Pace said. â€œIt was pretty awesome to finish with a birdie.â€
The Ladies Joburg Open proved to be the perfect start to the season for Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies leader Pace.
â€œI am flying out tonight for two weeks on the LPGA Tour,â€ she said. â€œI really set out to win this week, because I knew I would miss the next two tournaments. I had 400 points in the bag after winning the SA Womenâ€™s Open, but this victory gives me a little breathing space.
â€œNo doubt the girls are going to try and narrow the gap in the next two events. I really had to dig deep to come out on top, because the depth on the Sunshine Ladies Tour this season is incredible. Even the amateurs are playing unbelievably well and are gunning for victories.â€
Ivanna Samu, the countryâ€™s number two ranked amateur, earned the Leading Amateur honour with an overall seventh place finish on three under 213 after rounds of 75, 70 and 68.
Reigning number one Kaleigh Telfer tied for second with 13-year-old Kaitlyn Mcnab from Ekurhuleni.
The next event â€“ the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies â€“ takes place at Houghton Golf Club from 25-27 January.
PHOTO – Ladies Joburg Open champion Lee-Anne Pace with City of Johannesburg Action Mayor Mally Mokoena, Sunshine Tour Chief Executive Selwyn Nathan and City of Johannesburg Director of Events Bongi Mokaba; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.