The Star Late Edition

Pace stays out of Harm’s way

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HER challenger­s stumbled at the final hurdle yesterday, and Lee-Anne Pace held on to win her fourth national open title when she won the Investec South African Women’s Open title by one stroke at Westlake Golf Club in Cape Town.

Pace carded a level-par 72 in the final round after a weekend of trying conditions, and that was enough to ward off the threat posed by young German Leonie Harm, who also shot level-par in the final round.

In a share of third place were another German, Karolin Lampert, and SA’s Nicole Garcia on five-over.

“It’s really very special for me,” said Pace of the tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Ladies Tour and Ladies European Tour.

“I lost it a few years ago here on the same course and I’m really happy to have pulled it off. I’m a bit older now and I’m so happy to win again. My last win was in 2014, and now I’m looking forward to a nice season on the Ladies European Tour.”

And while Harm was her nearest challenger in the end, it was teenager Pia Babnik who would have provided her with her biggest headache.

Babnik shared the lead with Pace after the third round was completed yesterday after being suspended for a waterlogge­d course on Saturday.

The lanky Russian had slipped out of contention but came storming back with birdies on 12 and 13. But impetuosit­y saw her close double bogey-bogey-double bogey to slip to a share of fifth at six-over.

It was then that Pace made the move which probably sealed the tournament for her. She was short with her approach on the par-four 12th but she putted from the fringe and saw her 30-footer disappear into the cup. She looked sheepish, but with the rain about to start again it was a crucial birdie.

“It’s been really hectic with the weather,” said Pace, “and we got to 15 and it started raining again, and I thought, ‘here we go!’ But we all managed to push through.”

Experience was critical for Pace, for whom this was a 10th Ladies European Tour title.

“I hit the ball on the right sides of the holes,” she said.

“There were a couple of putts that could easily have dropped, but I hit the greens I had to and gave myself the chances when I could.”

The three players who finished behind Pace all punched their tickets to the 76th US Women’s Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in June.

Pace was also happy to play her way into the Major.

“I really wanted that spot,” she said. “I’ll have to get my visa next week, but I love the US Open. It’s such a challenge.”

The victory underlined Pace’s dominance of SA women’s golf with a performanc­e in conditions and on a course that would have satisfied the most hardened US Open purist, and she will take heart from her record fourth win, one clear of Mandy Adamson, who won in 1995, 1997 and 2002.

 ?? | PETRI OESCHGER ?? LEE-Anne Pace with the trophy yesterday.
| PETRI OESCHGER LEE-Anne Pace with the trophy yesterday.

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