8 July 2014
South Africa’s top women’s golf export, Lee-Anne Pace, is primed for this week’s British Women’s Open Championship after a top 10 finish in the ISPS Ladies European Masters on Sunday.
Pace fired a closing round of four-under-par 68 to tie for third on 11-under-par 277, seven seven shots behind the winner, IK Kim from South Korea.
Fellow South African Stacy Bregman tied for sixth at 10-under, while compatriot Connie Chen claimed her third successive top 30 finish with a tie for 27th on one-under-par 287.
Pace, a former Ladies European Tour number one missed a number of European events this season to ply her trade on the LPGA Tour, but thanks to a pay day worth €27 733, vaulted to ninth in the rankings. She is determined to take her recent vein of good form to the season’s third Major, which tees off at Royal Birkdale on Thursday.
“It’s really nice that I am back in the top 10, but my focus this year is on retaining my LPGA Tour card and the Majors, and who knows, this might just be my week,” Pace said in a statement on Monday.
The reigning Investec Cup for Ladies champion tied for 21st at Royal Birkdale in 2010, which also marked her highest finish in the championship.
‘It rained all the time’
“It rained all the time and I got the bad side of the draw in the first two rounds,” Pace recalled of that event.
“I really liked the course, though, and I just want to get going, especially after my best finish ever in the US Women’s Open and a good week like this.
“I can’t control what the other golfers will do, but my game is in good nick. I am a lot more experienced and confident this year, amn I’m looking forward to a much better performance.”
The Pearl Valley golfer attributed her recent strong performances to her stint in the United States and hooking up with new bagman Dylan Vallequette, as well as some valuable putting advice from fellow South African pro, Nicole Bekker, last week.
“Obviously when you play against some of the best golfers in the world on the LPGA Tour week in and out, it lifts your game and it pushes you to do better,” Pace explained.
“Shortly after I got to the USA, my caddie and I split and some friends recommended Dylan, who was just back from a spell in Korea. We hooked up and this was his fourth event on the bag.
“The partnership is working out very well. I learned a lot playing on the LPGA Tour with him on the bag, especially how to take on the greens since he introduced me to AimPoint Putting. He walks the course before each round and checks the pins and we plan my shots accordingly. I used to get too aggressive into the pins and it cost me shots.
“I also made a lot of putts this week thanks to Nicole’s help. She noticed that I was taking away too much with my hands, wasn’t using the big muscles enough, and we worked on my action.
“Between the two of them, I end up with more uphill putts and got a lot more balls in the hole this week, under 30 putts a round, which is a huge improvement. If I can keep doing that and limit my mistakes to nothing worse than a bogey, I have a shot at Royal Birkdale.”
Pace will be joined by three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Ashleigh Simon, who was forced to withdraw with severe back spasms on the weekend, at Royal Birkdale.
“It was not the week I was looking for before the Ricoh British Women’s Championship,” Simon said. “I didn’t want to take any chances, so I withdrew after 12 holes on Saturday and got treatment. Better safe than sorry.”