Lee-Anne Pace’s bid for an unprecedented fourth victory in the South African Women’s Open got off to the ideal start with an opening round of 70, which earned the South African a share of the lead on two-under.
The Sunshine Ladies Tour’s most prolific winner was level through 15 holes at Westlake Golf Club and she soared to the summit with a timely eagle on the par-5 13th.
Lydia Hall – another early morning starter – managed to get to three-under with a birdie on the par-3 15th, but a bogey on the next and two pars to finish for 70 left the Welsh golfer tied for the lead.
A number of players in the afternoon field tied to beat the clubhouse target and failed.
South African pair Nicole Garcia and former champion Tandi McCallum finished one shot adrift in joint third. Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson was four deep after nine holes, but slipped from contention with a double bogey at the 10th. A birdie finish for a round of 72 earned her a share of fifth with India’s Tvesa Malik.
Nine players tied for seventh on one-over, including Germany’s Karolin Lampert, the runner-up in 2018, and former Ladies European Tour winner Christine Wolf from Austria.
Pace closed out a record three successive victories in the flagship event at San Lameer in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
The nine-time Ladies European Tour winner has enjoyed 13 victories on home soil, winning every season since the Sunshine Ladies Tour launched in 2014. However, the winner’s circle has eluded the 40-year-old so far this year.
She certainly does appear to be trending towards a win after runner-up finishes in her last two starts and the veteran rolled back the years with a vintage display in perfect conditions in the City of Cape Town.
Pace reversed an early bogey at the 12th with birdie at the next, followed by a string of pars until she eagled the 456m (499y), par five 13th.
“It was three great shots,” said Pace. “I went with the driver so I could push it a little further down the fairway. I had 220 to the pin, 194 front, which is the perfect 3-wood for me. It bounced straight, which was nice, and I rolled in a six-foot putt.”
The Investec Order of Merit leader has a slew of goals this week – a fourth Investec SA Women’s Open title, a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open, a fourth Investec Order of Merit win, a fast start to the Ladies European Tour season, the Investec Homegrown Award and building form for the Olympic Games.
“I have a lot on my mind, for sure, but you just try to push it back and play one shot at a time. I am just trying to hit the fairways and the greens, because it’s so important here. The greens are smaller this week, so if you hit them, you always have a birdie chance.
“I wanted a fast start, but I knew it was playing tough. I thought anything around level-par or a bit under would be good enough. So I am breaking the big goals into small goals, and I reached one of them today.”
Hall certainly didn’t regret her last minute decision to make the trip to South Africa.
“I was still undecided 30 minutes before the entries closed, but I decided to do it because I have done well here in the past,” said Hall, who offset a pair of bogeys with four birdies.
“The course is so much greener that we are used to seeing it in March. And it was a little wetter than normal. It’s playing quite a bit longer, off the back tips this year, but the set-up is good. It’s a good test.”
Hall tied for ninth in 2018 and fifth a year later – another reason she was keen to start the 2021 Race to Costa Del Sol in South Africa.
“I just really like this course. It’s tight off the tee and you have to shape a lot of shots off the tees and into the greens; that’s something I like doing,” Hall said. “And the greens here are so pure. Where you start it is where it goes. It stays on line.
“I hit a lot of fairways and greens, which is key to scoring well on this course. I had one or two errant tee shots and two bad iron shots, but I’ll head to the range to work out the kinks. With an afternoon start on Friday, I expect the course will be a lot drier and the greens will firm up, so I am pretty happy to start the week on two under.”
Round 1 Scores
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified; amateurs indicated as (a)
70 – Lee-Anne Pace, Lydia Hall (WAL)
71 – Tandi McCallum, Nicole Garcia
72 – Johanna Gustavsson (SWE), Tvesa Malik (IND)
73 – Agathe Sauzon (FRA), Jenny Haglund (SWE), Christine Wolf (AUT), Leonie Harm (GER), Pia Babnik (SVN), Karolin Lampert (GER), Elia Folch (ESP), Kim Metraux (SUI), Camille Chevalier (FRA)
74 – Maria Hernandez (ESP), Carmen Alonso (ESP), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ), Kylie Henry (SCO), Lauren Taylor (ENG), Lora Assad, Astrid Vayson De Pradenne (FRA)
75 – Rachael Taylor (SCO), Casandra Hall, Lejan Lewthwaite, Cloe Frankish (ENG), Zethu Myeki, Amy Walsh (AUS), Sanna Nuutinen (FIN), Olivia Cowan (GER), Romy Meekers (NED), Jane Turner (SCO), Magdalena Simmermacher (ARG)
76 – Madelene Stavnar (NOR), Stina Resen (NOR), Anne-Charlotte Mora (FRA), Karoline Lund (NOR), Linette Holmslykke (DEN), Ursula Wikstrom (FIN), Stacy Bregman, Celine Herbin (FRA), Isabella van Rooyen (a), Kim Williams, Manon De Roey (BEL), Sarah Schober (AUT), Maiken Bing Paulsen (NOR), Nadia van der Westhuizen
77 – Annelie Sjoholm (SWE), Maria Beautell (ESP), Marianne Skarpnord (NOR), Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso (ITA), Ivanna Samu, Harang Lee (ESP), Pasqualle Coffa (NED), Caitlyn Macnab (a), Amelia Lewis (USA), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Sarina Schmidt (GER), Silvia Banon (ESP), Emma Nilsson (SWE), Katja Pogacar (SVN), Eleanor Givens (ENG), Nina Pegova (RUS), Michaela Fletcher
78 – Emilie Borggen (SWE), Emie Peronnin (FRA), Patricia Sanz Barrio (ESP), Luiza Altmann (BRA), Manon Gidali (FRA)
79 – Cara Gorlei, Kelsey Nicholas, Isabelle Boineau (FRA), Leticia Ras-Anderica (GER), Elina Nummenpaa (FIN), Florentyna Parker (ENG), Kristyna Napoleaova (CZE), Mireia Prat (ESP), Laura Gomez Ruiz (ESP)
80 – Tiia Koivisto (FIN), Lindi Coetzee, Samantha Whateley (a), Anna Magnusson (SWE), Justine Dreher (FRA), Tina Mazarino (NOR), Franziska Friedrich (GER), Maha Haddioui (MAR)
81 – Karina Kukkonen (FIN), Clara Pietri (SUI), Lina Boqvist (SWE), Katerina Vlasinova (CZE), Carolin Kauffmann (GER), Nina Grey (a), Caroline Rominger (SUI)
82 – Monique Smit, Shani Brynard (a), Noemi Jimenez Martin (ESP), Georgia Iziemgbe Oboh (NGA), Katia Shaff (a) (AUT)
83 – Alexandra Bonetti (FRA), Brittney-Fay Berger, Mimmi Bergman (SWE), Michelle Leigh, Line Toft Hansen (DEN)
84 – Christina Gloor (SUI)
85 – Shawnelle de Lange, Jordan Rothman (a), Sideri Vanova (CZE)
86 – Lynette Fourie
87 – Tara Griebenow
88 – Yolanda Duma
92 – Odette Booysen (a)
97 – Cassidy Williams
DSQ – Kaylah Williams (a)