Pace primed for SA Women’s Open at San Lameer: ‘I really love playing at the coast’

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Lee-Anne Pace is among the favourites to win the Cell C South African Women’s Open, a tournament she is yet to win, which tees off at the San Lameer Country Club next Thursday.

South Africa’s top women’s golfer has just concluded playing at the Tenerife Open de España Femenino in Spain and will be joining a field of 124 international golfers for the four-day tournament down the South Coast, playing for a purse of R4.5-million (€320 000).

She has played the course only once, a very long time ago, but says she loves playing at the coast and in the windy conditions, which she suspects is what can be expected.

“I would love to win the tournament. It’s one of my goals and if I can achieve that, it would be an awesome personal achievement,” she said.

“The most challenging part of competing at the San Lameer Country Club for me will be jetlag and the weather. I will be travelling back from Asia and the jetlag can be quite severe.

“I have played golf in KZN and I really love playing at the coast and in windy conditions, which I suspect is what we can expect on the South Coast.

“We always get treated very well at the SA Open and the holiday atmosphere is most inviting. It’s really nice to be able to compete in South Africa,” she added.

Pace is a household name in South Africa and renowned globally as one of the leading faces in women’s golf.

With just under a decade under her belt as a professional golfer, Pace is as much in love with the sport as the day she first started playing. Ironically, her introduction to the sport was as a caddy for her father and not as a golfer.

“I used to caddy for him to earn extra money during weekends but I suppose you could say me actually playing golf was by default. While at the course I I would hit some balls with the boys at the venue and we would also have putting competitions.”

During her high school years, Pace played tennis but excelled at hockey, a sport she loved playing but one she couldn’t envisage a professional future in.

“I really loved playing hockey and was very passionate about it but I didn’t think it was the sport for me to have a career in.”

A few years later, during her final year of studying Psychology at Tulsa University, Oklahoma (USA), she decided to give golf a go.

“Prior to that moment, I hadn’t really thought about becoming a professional golfer. Then I decided to give it a try, I qualified for the Tour and that was that.

“I became very passionate about my golf career and as soon as I won my first tournament, I knew that I really wanted to do it again, to experience that feeling of triumph and exhilaration again and again.

“Golf is a challenging sport and you have to learn early on how to control your emotions, deal with and make those big decisions in a short amount of time, but nothing beats the feeling you experience when you win.”

With a bright glow in her eyes, Pace speaks passionately about her love for golf.

“I love the challenges of golf, the excitement of winning, the pleasure you get from hitting a shot that sometimes seems impossible to pull off or hitting a shot at a crucial time that exceeds even your own expectations. And, I absolutely love winning.”

Inspired by South African golfing legends Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, she says the sport itself serves as a great inspiration that constantly tests a professional golfer.

“There are so many aspects to work on personally if you are to succeed in the professional circuit – you have to be strong physically, mentally and emotionally and that in itself is a constant challenge.

“It’s an amazing feeling when you exceed your own expectations, when you achieve your goals and targets and golf is one of those sports that gives you the opportunity to constantly experience those joys.”

Pace cherishes every single moment of her life as a professional golfer but admits it was a tricky road to negotiate.

“I am grateful and truly blessed to be a professional golfer – I have made many friends over the years and met very interesting people during my travels and I have been to some of the most amazing places on earth.

“But, early on in my career it was daunting to travel alone to foreign countries, not knowing the language or the areas I was travelling to and also trying to find my place on Tour. That changed when I bagged a few wins because I gained much needed confidence and was able to settle in.”

Now living at the Pearl Valley Golf and Country Estate, Pace shared her recipe for success on Tour.

“I was motivated to work harder and win after I started winning. I worked very hard on my swing, watched the top golfers and tried to replicate what they were doing and I worked on my mental strategy.

“I tell myself before every tournament that I am going to play each shot to the best of my ability and that puts me in a good frame of mind from the first to the last hole.”

Successful, talented, famous and yet Pace has managed to stay grounded and is in fact a very humble woman, who sincerely wishes to show young aspiring golfers that they can achieve their dreams and goals through hard work and dedication.

“I don’t see myself as a role model because I’m just me, doing what I love. I still get shy when asked for autographs but it makes me very happy to know that I might have played a part in helping to grow women’s golf in South Africa.

“I believe that with the start of the Ladies Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned events such as the Cell C SA Women’s Open, we will see many more girls taking up the sport. I can’t wait to see the next group of South African golfers coming through the ranks.”

Love, passion, dedication and hard work are vital components to becoming a successful golfer, traits often tested when results are not going your way. Pace knows this all too well.

“The one important thing I’ve learnt during the course of my career is that it can all turn around at any point. When the chips are down, I recall a tournament in China when I was a few over par on the cut line with five holes left to play in the day.

“I went on to finish the day really well and left the venue having won the tournament in a playoff. In golf, as in life, anything can happen, you just have to be mentally strong and know what you want out of that particular situation.”

Ten things you didn’t know about Lee-Anne Pace:

What was the longest time you’ve ever slept for?
Approximately 12 hours but it could possibly have been 15 hours because I think there might have been a break in-between.

Facebook, Instagram or Twitter?

My greatest challenge is/was…
Leaving my loved ones for a long period of time every year.

My lucky number is…
Actually I have four…1; 7; 11 and 15 but if pressed to choose just one, I’d probably choose the number 15!

Do you sing in the shower?
I do, but that really depends on what the proper definition of singing is because my singing sounds like cats fighting.

My favourite invention is…
I have a long list which includes in no particular order: wireless internet; anything Apple; dishwashers; Nespresso coffee machines; memory foam beds and Bose noise-cancelling headphones.

What did you want to be when you were a child/teenager?
A paediatrician.

What do you listen to while on Tour?
A variety of music except for Rap and R&B and I really like Ed Sheeran.

I like watching (horrors/comedies/dramas/thrillers)…
TV Shows with my favourites being Scandal (The Fixer); Banshee; The Black List; Game of Thrones; Revenge; Sons of Anarchy; Suits and True Blood.

What’s your kryptonite?
Spiders! Seriously, I just can’t handle the sight of them and tend to make a less-than-graceful exit when they’re around.

Three minutes with Lee-Anne Pace:

Do you have any pre-tournament rituals?
I wouldn’t call it a ritual actually but now that I think about it, I do tend to follow a routine on matchday, which is coffee in the morning; make sure I go to the loo just before tee-off and put on sunblock.

What can’t you live without?
It is an endless list and I’m not kidding – the things I can’t do without include my iPhone; coffee; red wine; lamb chops; my memory foam pillow; wireless internet; hot baths; Bose headphones; music; laughter; my family; my friends…I could go on!

Your favourite football team?
Honestly, I really dislike football, but I do enjoy watching rugby – the Stormers and Springboks in particular.

What is your greatest fear?
Apart from spiders it would probably be worrying about someone I love getting hurt.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
It might sound a bit boring but I tend to catch up on bookings, emails and phonecalls; I try to watch my favourite TV shows; spend time with family and friends and some outdoor activities such as paddle boarding or social golf.

Who/What inspires you?
Amazing athletes such as Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Rory McIlroy as well as true stories about people who have faced difficult circumstances and overcome those. I am a huge fan of true story movies.

If you were to host a dinner party for any five people in the world (celebrities, politicians, sports stars, philanthropists, etc. living or dead), who would you choose?
My best friend, my sister, brother-in-law , who is basically brother and Ed Sheeran, for the entertainment.

Favourite course in the world?
Pearl Valley but St Andrews is right up there too!

Cats or dogs?

What/who makes you smile?
I have so many and this is in no particular order: my friends; my family; chocolate; red wine; lamb chops; stand-up paddle boarding; the ocean; kids; my bed; the view from my bedroom; a birdie; an eagle; the smell of my cappuccino in the morning; waking up at 5am and knowing that I can sleep a bit more!


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