Lee-Anne Pace will be the hot favourite to defend her title and win the bonus pool when she tees it up in this weekend’s Investec Cup for Ladies at the Millvale and Lost City golf courses in North-West, but South Africa’s top women’s golfer has her mind on making an impact in the majors this year.
The world number 31 is third in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies after her victory in Tuesday’s Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club made it a perfect three wins from three Sunshine Ladies Tour events this summer. Pace said on Tuesday that her preparations for the first major of the year – the ANA Inspiration from April 2 at the famous Mission Hills Country Club in California – could not have gone better.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence from these last couple of weeks in South Africa, I’ve been striking the ball really well and I feel a lot more ready for the majors because I’ve been competing. This time last year I hadn’t played nearly as much and especially winning, no other feeling compares to that and hopefully I can carry that into the majors,” Pace told The Citizen.
Her best finish in a major is a tie for 21st at the 2010 British Open, but Pace will attack this year’s showpiece events with considerably more confidence, especially after her breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour last year at Blue Bay in China, beating the likes of Michelle Wie, Jessica Korda and Lydia Ko.
“I’d like to creep towards the top-10 in the world rankings and win again on the LPGA Tour, but I really want to attack the majors this year and my sights are set on the British Open at Turnberry in July. That win on the LPGA Tour last October was a big breakthrough because it was against the best in the world and I now know that I can do it in the majors,” Pace, a nine-time Ladies European Tour winner and twice their Player of the Year, said.
Stacy Bregman is South Africa’s second-highest ranked golfer at number 155 in the world and the Johannesburg Country Club star has also foregone overseas competitions in order to compete at home, with Pace saying this shows how the Sunshine Ladies Tour is growing into something that could make an impact on the global stage.
“It’s been important to me for a while to support the local tour and Stacy Bregman feels the same as well. We now have especially good sponsors on board like Investec, and hopefully the tour can get even bigger and we can get co-sanctioned events like the men.
“There are endless possibilities and this year’s tour has had a lot more exposure and interest and there’s been a lot more players, including a couple from England. Hopefully they can get the word out and even more overseas players will come,” Pace said.
Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan said the success of the Sunshine Ladies Tour had surpassed expectations.
“The growth of the women’s tour has been unbelievable, even though it is still a work in progress. This tour is going to grow and we have fantastic plans for it. It’s been an absolute success and sponsors, fans and social media interest have all grown.
“And the appreciation from the women golfers has been amazing, there’s not been one tournament where the sponsors have received less than 30 letters of thanks from the players, and that’s from fields of less than 50,” Nathan said.
Bregman and Pace are both chasing Melissa Eaton for the R250 000 bonus pool prize for finishing first in the Investec Cup standings, with Eaton currently 33 points ahead of Bregman and 121.34 in front of Pace. With 1000 points on offer for the winner when the chase ends at the Lost City on Sunday, those deficits are negligible.
It is a tremendous coup for Investec and the Sunshine Tour that both South Africa’s top male and female golfer will be in action.
Ex-Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is taking part and, even though he has a 1160-point deficit to make up on standings leader Trevor Fisher Junior, his focus is on the serious business of preparing for another tilt at the Augusta title from April 9.
The Chase to the Investec Cup is a marvellous exposition of the most consistent South African golfers because it takes into account both the co-sanctioned events and the regular Sunshine Tour tournaments through the winter.
The likes of Fisher Junior, Jacques Blaauw, Danie van Tonder and Jaco Ahlers are the centre of attention as they lead the standings and look to claim the lucrative R3.5 million bonus pool prize this weekend.
It’s a nice reward for their consistency over a long period of time but Schwartzel and other international stars like George Coetzee and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen will be out to wreck their payday.
Fields (with points)
Men (1500pts for winner) – Trevor Fisher Jnr 2207.65; Jacques Blaauw 2095.92; Danie van Tonder 1800.69; Jaco Ahlers 1675.95; Dean Burmester 1515.87; Jean Hugo 1491.79; Keith Horne 1439.58; Wallie Coetsee 1435.99; Jaco van Zyl 1431.50; Ulrich van den Berg 1415.25; George Coetzee 1378.50; Tjaart van der Walt 1357.25; Jared Harvey 1161.04; Charl Schwartzel 1047.00; Neil Schietekat 1025.63; Titch Moore 982.51; Erik van Rooyen 978.53; Adilson da Silva 963.35; Morten Orum Madsen 959.17; Oliver Bekker 937.74; Merrick Bremner 929.96; Darren Fichardt 920.57; Rhys West 884.33; Haydn Porteous 879.74; Justin Harding 853.55; Louis de Jager 803.37; Jbe’ Kruger 801.00; Chris Swanepoel 726.58; Shaun Norris 714.26; Christiaan Basson 680.88.
Women (1000pts for winner) – Melissa Eaton 1021.34; Stacy Bregman 988.33; Lee-Anne Pace 900.00; Nicole Garcia 738.50; Bonita Bredenhann 588.00; Lucy Williams 568.10; Nobuhle Dlamini 559.48; Kim Williams 558.66; Monique Smit 482.50; Monja Richards 410.83.