13 May 2013 – South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace came from behind to end a three-year title drought when she triumphed at the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open at the National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya on Sunday.
The Mossel Bay professional was two off the pace at the start of the final round but overhauled overnight leaders Charley Hull from England and Spain’s Carlota Ciganda to lift her sixth Ladies European Tour title since she won five times in 2010 on her way to claiming the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit.
Playing in the penultimate group, the 32-year-old South African set the clubhouse target at three-under-par 289 with a final round 72 and promptly moved to the putting green where she kept her focus going while she waited for the group to finish the round.
Hull, Ciganda or the two-time defending champion Christel Boeljon from the Netherlands could force a play-off with birdie the final hole.
However, the Dutch player got caught in the fairway bunker and was forced to lay up, effectively leaving the race. Hull and Ciganda still both had a chance, but the British rookie rushed her putt past the hole while the Spanish player watched helplessly as her birdie effort lipped-out.
“You know, I just through that if it happens, it happens,” Pace said. “There was a chance of a play-off, so I was just hitting some putts and trying not to look. It’s been a while and to do it again is fantastic. It is just so nice to win again.”
In November last year, Pace was ranked inside the top five on the ISPS Handa Order of Merit, but disaster struck during the Sanya Ladies Open. The Southern Cape golfer slipped and fell in her hotel room and badly cut her right elbow when she struck a mirror in the room.
The injury forced her early retirement and she returned to South Africa, where she got a second opinion when the wound wouldn’t heal. The resulting examination revealed glass in the wound and Pace was forced to undergo surgery.
“It’s been very frustrating because I felt I was just getting back to the form I had when I won five times in 2010,” she said. “After the surgery, I had to undergo physiotherapy and my patience was sorely tested. I could feel my game starting to come back slowly, but it has been quite a road back. It’s just fantastic to have all that work pay off.”
Patience at one of the toughest layouts on the Ladies European Tour certainly paid off for Pace.
The South African boxed a three-footer for birdie at the second hole and picked up her second birdie with an up-and-down chip at the fourth. She made a brilliant up-and-down at the sixth to save par and another good save from the bunker at the eight.
After turning with a one stroke lead, Pace dropped a shot at the 11th when a gust of wind knocked her ball down short of the green, but she retaliated with a birdie at the 12th. Another drop followed at the 14th but she settled down and came home with four successive pars.
“It’s definitely one of the toughest golf courses we play,” she said. “The greens get quite a lot firmer and quicker at the end of the week and it’s a very tight golf course. You have to keep the ball in play.”
Ciganda, who will be in title defense at the Deloitte Ladies Open in Holland from May 24-26, tied for second with Hull and Finland’s Minea Blomqvist.
South Africa’s Stacy-Lee Bregman and Morgana Robbertze both made the cut and tied for 47th and 55th respectively.
289 – Lee-Anne Pace (RSA) 70 77 70 72
290 – Charley Hull (ENG) 75 71 69 75, Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 69 74 72 75, Minea Blomqvist (FIN) 75 75 70 70
291 – Christel Boeljon (NED) 71 78 67 75
292 – Holly Clyburn (ENG) 74 71 75 72, Eleanor Givens (ENG) 72 73 74 73, Florentyna Parker (ENG) 74 71 72 75, Trish Johnson (ENG) 71 71 75 75
293 – Linda Wessberg (SWE) 72 77 70 74, Vikki Laing (SCO) 77 73 68 75
294 – Line Vedel (DEN) 76 76 71 71, Laura Davies (ENG) 72 70 78 74, Sarah Kemp (AUS) 70 79 71 74, Gwladys Nocera (FRA) 81 71 70 72
296 – Carmen Alonso (ESP) 70 72 79 75
303 – Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) 77 73 78 75
307 – Morgana Robbertze (RSA) 75 76 81 75