4 March 2016 – South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace fired an opening four-under-par 68 to finish just one behind joint first round leaders Candie Kung, a four-time LPGA Tour winner and second season player Minjee Lee from Australia in the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore on Thursday.
The nine-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion dropped just one shot as she navigated a stiff breeze at the Sentosa Golf Club.
Pace will have some impressive company as she chases the leading pair in today’s second round, including defending champ Inbee Park, two-time major champion Suzann Pettersen and fellow LPGA winner Mika Miyazato.
“It was great, I played really good golf today,” said Pace.
“I made some good decisions with my caddie, so overall I’m really pleased. I practiced quite a bit in the wind in the off-season and that helped, but good decision making, hitting it pin-high all the time and making a few putts did the trick.”
Pace missed the chance to join the leaders at five under when she missed an eagle opportunity at the par five seventh, but made the birdie putt and collected three more gains at 12, 14 and 15.
“I birdied the first, but gave the shot back at the third when I pushed my drive right into the trees,” Pace said.
“I hit a great five wood at seven to set up a birdie and had some good opportunities on the other par fives. If you play the par fours smart, you’re in with a chance.”
Pace’s leaner physique was also a talking point at the event.
“I do feel a lot stronger,” she said. ”I spent a lot of the off-season doing some gym training and I actually gained ten meters on the drive, which is quite a lot and at least five metres on my irons, so it just makes the golf course a lot easier.”
Following a tie for 54th in the Bahamas, Pace claimed a top 20 finish in Thailand last week and pushed her winning tally to nine on the Sunshine Ladies Tour with victories in the Ladies Joburg Open, Cape Town Ladies Open and Dimension Data Ladies Challenge.
“I took more time off last year than usual – three months – because I was just a bit mentally drained at the end of the season,” said the two-time Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies champion.
“I really wanted to come out with a bang and so far it’s working. I spent a lot of time with my family, did a lot of physical training and started seeing a sport psychologist in South Africa that does work with quite a lot of the Olympians going to Rio this year.
“That was something new for me. He does mental training, but not only with sports people and he has helped me gain a lot of patience. The golf swing is exactly the same but I am a lot calmer on the golf course and a lot stronger, so that makes a difference.”