Johannesburg - Lee-Anne Pace believes her continued dominance of the South African Women’s Open has earned her the enviable right to be regarded as the best player so far in the history of this tournament.
This follows a record she set by winning the Open – which is part of the Ladies European Tour – for the third successive year last Saturday, thus marching to a historic hat-trick of the event.
Pace put up a class act before posting a seven-stroke victory over fellow South African Ashleigh Buhai on eight-under-par 208 in the final round at San Lameer Country Club on the tough KwaZulu-Natal South Coast layout.
In capturing the trophy, the 35-year-old Paarl, Western Cape-born Pace, who campaigns on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), engraved her name in the South African golfing annals as the first player to celebrate three successive wins in the national championship.
Before last weekend, she had captured the Open in 2014 and 2015.
This competition was not staged last year due to scheduling hassles.
Pace even outclassed compatriot Mandy Adamson, who has also lifted the trophy three times but not in succession.
Pace told City Press a few days ago that winning the title three years in a row placed her in a class of her own.
“Mission accomplished. I’m not shy to say that I’m the best golfer in the history of the SA Women’s Open by winning three years in a row,” said Pace.
“As my name suggests, I have set the pace in local women’s golf and would like to keep it that way by winning event after event.”
Pace said she was looking forward to defending her titles at the Cape Town Ladies Open at Royal Cape Golf Club starting from Tuesday; and Dimension Data Ladies Challenge at Fancourt, teeing off from February 21.
“I look forward to coming home, not only to play here in front of my family and fans, but to motivate all the young amateurs that look up to me for inspiration on the Sunshine Ladies Tour.”
Nine-time winner on the LET, Pace’s last big scalp outside her country was the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in China in 2013 where she won in the play-off.
She said she was hoping to take part in the Honda LPGA Thailand in Chonburi, Thailand, from February 23 to 26.
“I will fly straight from George to Asia to play the LPGA Tour in Thailand and then I’ll be coming back to defend my Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies title at the final before I fly to the United States for the rest of the LPGA Tour season.”
Pace ended the 2016 LPGA Tour calender with a career-high 35th place ranking on the LPGA Tour Money List and she is looking to improve on that standing this year.
“I had top 20 finishes in two Majors – the ANA Inspiration and the Ricoh Women’s British Open – so I will be looking to improve in all the Majors this year and I would really like to add to my trophy cabinet as well.
"I’m in a great position now that I can choose the tournaments I want to play. I can plan my schedule around the courses that suit my game, where I feel I can score well and prepare properly for the Majors.”