The final round stage at San Lameer Country Club belonged to Lee-Anne Pace, who marched to a historic SA Women’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 Stacey Bregman and went around the layout in 72 strokes to close out a runaway seven stroke victory over Ashleigh Simon 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.
‘Mission accomplished,’ Pace said through a beaming smile. ‘I 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.’
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 year’s Sunshine Ladies Tour.
‘It has always been important to me to come home and support the Sunshine Ladies Tour,’ said the three-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion. ‘I was going to play Hawaii, but when I heard the SA Women’s Open date moved, I changed my LPGA Tour schedule so I could go for the hat-trick.
‘I always wanted to put my name on the SA Women’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.’
Pace laid the foundation for her hat-trick with an opening six-under-par 66, but said the last two rounds were tough.
‘The windy conditions in the last two days made it really tough and it certainly tested our patience,’ Pace said. ‘You 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.
‘That 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 enjoyed the crowd. It was so great to have so many people walking with us and it added so much to make this a very memorable moment.
‘There is one big champion of the SA Womens’ Open that we have to thank and, 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.
‘Mandy Adamson won this title three times, too, so if nothing gets in the way, I’ll see you all back here at San Lameer next year to go for No 4.’
If Pace was the main act of the day, Woo Ju Son definitely deserved the best supporting award.
The reigning No 1 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.
All players RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as (AMA):
208 – Lee-Anne Pace 66 70 72
215 – Ashleigh Buhai 73 70 72
217 – Rebecca Hudson (ENG) 71 73 73, Stacy Bregman 69 72 76
218 – Kiran Matharu (ENG) 70 72 76
220 – Francesca Cuturi 73 74 73, Lejan Lewthwaite 71 73 76
221 – Carrie Park (KOR) 72 78 71
225 – Ivanna Samu 75 74 76, Monique Smit 68 79 78, Woo-Ju Son AMA 74 73 78
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