Casandra Hall will be hounding Lee-Anne Pace as the LPGA Tour champion chases a record 14th Sunshine Ladies Tour title in the final round of the Joburg Ladies Open on Friday.
Pace carded a two-over 74 on a battling day in the wind at Soweto Country Club to finish on two-under 142. She leads by two from Hall, who returned a level par round of 72.
The 21-year-old Glendower golfer finished third in her first playing of the R500 000 event at its new home in Soweto and were it not for a pair of double bogeys in last year’s final round, Hall would have post a top seven finish.
She began the day four shots behind overnight leader Pace, but a flawless front nine that featured three birdies on the bounce from the fourth pushed her into the lead. She kept in front of the pack with another gain on the par five 10th, but immediately lost the advantage with a bogey on the next hole and she left the door open for Pace with a trio of bogeys from 15.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of the round, because I really played the first 10 holes well. It was all going my way. I was putting myself in the right positions, but the back nine started off just a little bit slow,” said the 2020 Investec Royal Swazi Sun Ladies champion.
“I birdied 10 and wouldn’t say it went downhill from there, but I hit good shots and got some very unlucky bounces. It happens on this golf course. The bounces went my way on the front, not so much on the back.”
Hall said the windy conditions made club selection on the last nine holes extremely tricky.
“The greens are still very firm, so you can’t really attack the pins, especially not the ones on the front of the greens. They are a little softer and easier to score on in the mornings, but they dry out in the afternoon.
“The fairways are running really nicely, though, and that leaves you a lot of short irons in. The course is not playing very long, but with the wind blowing on the back, it was that much longer and harder to score. You’re never going to stop the ball downwind on these greens. I’m a little disappointed but I’m still in a strong position with 18 holes to go.”
Pace was equally frustrated, but more with herself than the course.
“No, I am not happy about my day,” said the nine-time Ladies European Tour champion. “I feel like I played really well, but I didn’t stick it close and I hit the wrong clubs all day. At least I came back with three birdies in a row from 12, which was nice.
“It’s a tough course anyway and when the wind comes up like it did today, it only gets tougher out there. We were playing a two-club wind on the last couple of holes, and stopping anything downwind on the firm greens is a challenge.
“With a difficult course like this, you really have to play strategically and the wind made club selection really difficult. I made a mistake on 15 where I should have hit driver and gone for the green, but I laid up and paid the price. And took another wrong club on 17 and dropped again. I got a little annoyed with myself, but I’m happy that at least I am still up there.”
She is happy, though, with her overall game.
“I’m really happy with the way I’m swinging it,” said the 40-year-old. “I am striking the ball as good as I ever have and really shaping my shots nicely. The only thing really bothering me is this annoying sore toe. I bumped my foot against the bed post last week and it is very uncomfortable. But I will be going for a MRI next week and hopefully it’s nothing too serious. I’m building some nice momentum for the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge and the Investec SA Women’s Open and I’d be gutted if I had to put the brakes on my season right now.”
Paulsen matched Pace’s 74 to sit alone in third on one-over
Three-time Sunshine Ladies Tour winner Nicole Garcia returned a round of 72 to finish in fourth place on two-over. The Ebotse golfer is one shot ahead of last week’s SuperSport Ladies Challenge winner Michaela Fletcher and French pair Justine Dreher and Astrid Vayson de Pradenne.
Last year’s winner Monique Smit also played the second in level par, to finish on five-over alongside 2019 champion Nobuhle Dlamini, who shot 77. The pair share eighth place with Manon Gidali, who won the season-opening Cape Town Ladies Open, her compatriot Emie Peronnin and Kristyna Napoleaova from the Czech Republic.
By Lali Stander