South African Lee-Anne Pace birdied the second extra hole in a sudden death play-off against Holly Clyburn to claim her ninth Ladies European Tour victory in a dramatic finish to the Cell C South African Women’s Open at San Lameer Golf Club in KwaZulu-Natal.
Only three Australians made the trip to South Africa, Whitney Hillier, Alison Whitaker and Bree Arthur, along with New Zealand’s Cathryn Bristow. Hillier and Bristow were the best performed, they finished in a share of 24th position at five-over, 10 shots back. Unfortunately Whitaker and Arthur both missed the cut.
Playing in front of a home crowd in the third last group, Pace, from Mossel Bay birdied the 18th in a final round of five-under-par 67 to set the clubhouse target. She then waited before Clyburn, playing in the last group, sealed her round of 70 to tie at five-under-par.
After the players returned to the 351-yard par-4 18th hole, they both narrowly missed birdie putts from around 10 feet at the first extra hole and returned to the 18th tee.
On the second play-off hole, Clyburn hit her second shot heavy and her ball found the water short of the green and took six to get down, whereas from 94 yards, Pace used her 52 degree wedge to hit her ball three feet from the hole.
This was Pace’s third victory from three play-offs on the LET and it was a very special win for the 33 year old. “I’ve always wanted to win this tournament. It was definitely one of my goals this year, so to do it today in front of so many lovely people supporting me was just a dream come true.”
Starting the day four shots off the lead, Pace played the front nine in one under par but made her presence felt on the leader board when she made an eagle on the par-5 13th, after hitting her second shot to the green from 212 yards with a 5-wood and making a 20 foot putt. She said: “I was about three shots behind and it was never a lay-up, always going for it. My caddie made a good call there and a good putt and that was that.”
She almost birdied 17, but then made a three foot putt for birdie on 18. “I saw that Holly was still five under so I knew I had to birdie the last hole to have a chance.”
Pace will now head back to China for the next LPGA event.
Two strokes further behind on three-under-par, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera ended in solo third place, with England’s pair of Florentyna Parker and Georgina Simpson, Germany’s Ann-Kathrin Lindner and France’s Valentine Derrey a stroke behind in fourth. Second round leader Leigh Whittaker tied for eighth place with Fabienne In-Albon and first round leader Charley Hull ended in share of 10th, after a triple bogey on 11 effectively ended her title hopes in the last round.