Durban – Top-ranked woman golfer Lee-Anne Pace is looking for a first-ever win in the South African Women’s Open when the competition tees off at the Southbroom Golf Club on Friday.
The 32-year-old, who was runner-up last year, headlines a strong local field for the co-sanctioned Ladies European Tour (LET) and SA Women’s Professional Golf Association event, which is being played on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast in the second of a three-year deal.
“I’m looking for a special week,” Pace said.
“I’ve been training hard to make it a special week.
“But just to be in South Africa and play in front of your home crowd is very special, so I’m excited.
“We’ve got some bigger names here this year, and generally the field is stronger than last year. So I think it’s a really positive step in the right direction.”
Former champions Tandi Cuningham, Ashleigh Simon (2004 and 2007) and Laurette Maritz (1989 and 1996), and veteran Mandy Adamson (1995, 1997 and 2002) are also in the 152-player line-up.
The foreign contingent in the R345,000 event is headed by Australian Stacey Keating, the highest ranked player in the field at number 68 in the world, France’s Gwladys Nocera, and multiple LET winners Becky Brewerton of Wales, Englishwomen Trish Johnson, and Carly Booth from Scotland.
Then there is Cheyenne Woods, the 22-year-old niece of world No 1, Tiger Woods, who is one of the star attractions in a strong field assembled for the tournament.
Pace has struggled to hit the heights of her superb 2010 season when she won five tournaments, including her last win.
She has come close to winning on several occasions over the past two years, though, particularly at the same 54-hole event last year when she ended second behind German Caroline Masson after a final day charge.
The Mossel Bay-born star slipped out of the top 100 in recent months, but tied for eighth in her last tournament, the Lalla Meryem Cup, at the end of last month.
“My game is still feeling really good,” she said.
“I got a bit unlucky in Morocco with a few bad bounces here and there. But overall I’m feeling good.”
Woods, meanwhile, is relishing her chance of playing in South Africa for the first time.
The youngster is in her rookie season and claimed her best ever finish of tied-12th in the same completion in Morocco last month.
“I’ve always been interested in the country and its history,” Woods said.
“I’ve always wanted to come here, so I’m excited to be here now.
“At the Masters last week I spoke to Gary Player and he told me a lot about the country. He told me the beaches here are beautiful. And he spoke very highly of Southbroom golf course.” – Sapa