By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Melissa Eaton and the rest of the Investec Cup for Ladies finalists had to look on as South African number one Lee-Anne Pace retained her crown in commanding fashion at Lost City on Sunday.
The Port Shepstone golfer, who topped the rankings going into the tour finale, got off to a solid start with a one-over 73 at the Millvale Private Retreat with twin sister Nicola Eaton-Gutzeit playing the role of caddie.
She was left to rue a disappointing second-round 80, which along with Pace’s red-hot formed, all but ended her title aspirations.
Eaton, however, showed good mental strength to bounce back with a one-under 71 final round, which saw her finish fourth.
The result saw Eaton finish second on the Order of Merit behind Pace.
Following a strong, consistent Ladies Sunshine Tour, Eaton will turn her focus to the Ladies European Tour, which gets underway in China in May.
Courtesy of Lali Stander:
Pace notched up her fifth successive Sunshine Ladies, opening her challenge with a four-under 68 and taking an insurmountable eight-stroke lead into the final round after a one-under 71 at the Lost City Golf Course on Saturday.
The LPGA Tour champion left the field trailing in her wake at Sun City as she navigated to a final-round 71 and an emphatic eight-stroke victory on six-under-par 210.
Bonita Bredenhann from Namibia matched her playing partner’s 71 to claimed second on two-over 218, while Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Glendower champion Nicole Garcia edged into third on six over 222 with a final round 73.
Pace earned R30,000 for the victory, but the 1,000 points on offer also lifted the Pearl Valley golfer to the number one spot in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies standings, which netted her the winner’s cut worth R250,000 of the R600,000 bonus pool.
“This is unbelievable,” said the delighted champion.
“People might think that, just because I’ve won on the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour, winning at home doesn’t matter, but they would be dead wrong.
“It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s an amazing feeling to win in front of your friends, family and supporters on home soil.
“I brought my sister with me this week, but when I came back to defend next year, I am bringing the whole family. This is just too good not to share with everyone.”
Pace turned professional in 2005, but only broke through for her first pro victory in the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open in 2010.
That victory broke the dam wall for Pace, who notched eight victories on the Ladies European Tour during an incredible purple patch that lasted until 2013.
She had to wait nearly a decade, though, before winning her first professional title on home soil.
That breakthrough came in the 2014 Investec Cup for Ladies last year and followed after a fourth, a third and a second place finish on the inaugural Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Having broken the victory drought at home, Pace claimed a play-off victory in Cell C SA Women’s Open in October last year, only eight days before she broke through on the LPGA Tour in China.
She extended her winning run in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge and Ladies Tshwane Open over the last two weeks and was absolutely delighted to successfully defend her title.
“This has been an incredible three week stretch,” Pace said.
“I am heading back to the LPGA Tour tonight to compete in the Kia Classic and then it’s off to Mission Hills for the first Major of the season. I feel incredibly positive about my game, and I’m looking forward to the next two weeks.
“The Sunshine Ladies Tour is in very good shape and with the money Investec is investing into the Tour next season, it’s going to be fantastic to come back. I’m definitely going to play in more events next year and I will absolutely be back to defend my title.”
Final results (all players RSA unless otherwise specified):
210 – Lee-Anne Pace 68 71 71
218 – Bonita Bredenhann NAM 76 71 71
222 – Nicole Garcia 74 75 73
224 – Melissa Eaton 73 80 71
225 – Stacy Bregman 73 79 73, Monique Smit 71 78 76
226 – Monja Richards 74 79 73
229 – Nobuhle Dlamini SWZ 78 73 78
231 – Lucy Williams ENG 73 81 77, Kim Williams 78 75 78