EKURHULENI (26 February 2014) – South Africa’s most prominent Ladies European Tour exports Lee-Anne Pace and Ashleigh Simon headline a strong international field at this week’s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at the magnificent Glendower Golf Club.
Simon hopes to go a step further than her runner-up finish at the Dimension Data Ladies Pro-Am, while Pace will also be looking to improve on her tie for fourth at the Outeniqua course at Fancourt on Sunday.
The pair will join recent Sunshine Ladies Tour champions Kim Williams, Tandi von Ruben and current Order of Merit leader Monique Smit in the second of three R100,000 Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies events, while LET campaigner Stacy Bregman makes her Sunshine Ladies Tour debut at the home of the South African Open Championship.
The field is further strengthened by Anne-Lise Caudal from France, another multiple LET champion, Maggie Yuan from Australia, Lauren Blease and Rachel Drummond from England, Norway’s Cecilie Lundgreen, Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann, as well the number one professionals from Swaziland and Nigeria, Nobuhle Dlamini and Uloma Mbuko.
In 2004, a 14-year-old Simon lost the tussle for the 2004 Pam Golding Ladies International title to Minea Blomqvist from Finland. A year later, Simon won the club championship, but after having her first look at the par-72 championship layout in Wednesday’ practice round, she is predicting a tough battle.
“The course is playing quite long with all the rain they’ve had,” said Simon.
“The fairways are still as narrow as they were set up for the SA Open and the rough is quite high. Add to that slick greens, and you have a recipe for a very tough tournament.
“The course will definitely suit the longer hitters, but if you are accurate off the tee and can pick the right side of the green, you can challenge. It’s all about course management over the next two days.”
The 24-year-old two-time LET champion could come under pressure from Dlamini, who is a fellow Glendower honorary member and the club champion in 2009.
The powerful hitter from Swaziland has been tinkering with some swing changes, but after a halting start to her pro debut on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, the LET rookie was back to the form that carried her to second in the world amateur golf rankings last year.
She followed an average 72 at Oubaai with a blistering 67 at Fancourt to vault to joint fourth alongside Pace in the final standings.
“I had some stuff going on, so I wasn’t playing to form,” said Dlamini. “After the last round in George, I feel like my old self, again.
“I love this course and it suits my game. It will also suit Ashleigh and Lee-Anne, and the other Ladies European Tour players, who are used to the longer courses. This week could definitely get interesting.”
Pace missed the practice round to relocate from George to the Pearl Valley Golf Estate near Paarl and will only get her first look at the course when she tees it up the first round on Thursday.
“Unfortunately I had to finish the move before I leave for Europe again, and that meant missing the practice round,” the former European number one said.
“I am excited to play Glendower again, even if I am playing it blind. My game plan will be fairways and greens and hopefully I can pick up some birdies along the way.”
Top SA amateur Magda Kruger lost the Sun International Challenge in a play-off to former SA Women’s Open champion, Tandi von Ruben.
This week the Zwartkops amateur is teeing it up alongside the big guns, Pace and Simon.
The recent Eastern Province Stroke Play champion believes the experience of playing in the first two Sunshine Ladies Tour events will strengthen her resolve in this week’s event.
“Playing with the pros has been absolutely fantastic and I’ve already learned a lot about myself and my abilities,” said the 18-year-old GFG Academy player. “I’m really looking forward to playing the first round with Lee-Anne and Ashleigh and learning more from them about handling the pressure and keeping a level head out there.”