Pace claims play-off victory

Lee-Anne Pace birdied the second extra hole in a sudden death play-off against Holly Clyburn to claim her ninth Ladies European Tour victory in a dramatic finish to the Cell C South African Women’s Open at San Lameer Golf Club in KwaZulu-Natal.

Playing in front of a home crowd in the third last group, the 33-year-old from Mossel Bay birdied the 18th in a final round of five-under-par 67 to set the clubhouse target. She then waited before Clyburn, playing in the last group, sealed her round of 70 to tie at five-under-par.

After the players returned to the 351-yard par-4 18th hole, they both narrowly missed birdie putts from around 10 feet at the first extra hole and returned to the 18th tee.

On the second play-off hole, Clyburn hit her second shot heavy and her ball found the water short of the green and took six to get down, whereas from 94 yards, Pace used her 52 degree wedge to hit her ball three feet from the hole.

This was Pace’s third victory from three play-offs on the LET and she was aware of her perfect record, having won her last LET title in similar fashion in the Sanya Ladies Open in China 11 months ago.

Prior to the play-off, she told her caddie, Andy Dearden, that she felt confident. “I mentioned that to Andy, I said: ‘You know I’m two for two, right.’ The chances are pretty good on this one.

“I’ve always wanted to win this tournament. It was definitely one of my goals this year, so to do it today in front of so many lovely people supporting me was just a dream come true.”

Starting the day four shots off the lead, Pace played the front nine in one under par but made her presence felt on the leader board when she made an eagle on the par-5 13th, after hitting her second shot to the green from 212 yards with a 5-wood and making a 20 foot putt.

She said: “I was about three shots behind and it was never a lay-up, always going for it. My caddie made a good call there and a good putt and that was that.”

She almost birdied 17, but then made a three foot putt for birdie on 18. “I saw that Holly was still five under so I knew I had to birdie the last hole to have a chance.”

Clyburn, the winner of the Deloitte Ladies Open as a rookie in 2013, birdied the first hole to take the lead from the beginning of her final round and made another birdie on 13, combined with 16 steady pars.

“I played solid the first 18 holes. I wasn’t letting anything get away from me and I was plodding away,” said Clyburn, 23 from Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, England. “I was taking fairways and greens and two putts for the first so many holes and then I made the turn and I thought, ‘You’ve played well on this front nine and you liked 10 from Thursday’, so I turned it on and made a great four on 13 and just made some great up and downs on 15 and 16.”

Clyburn almost found the water left of the green on 18 in regulation play but was just off the edge of the green and made a par. Playing the same hole for the third time, she took an extra club, but said: “I thought it was okay but I caught it slightly heavy.” After the Italian Open, this is her second runner-up finish on the LET this year.

Two strokes further behind on three-under-par, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera ended in solo third place, with Florentyna Parker, Ann-Kathrin Lindner, Valentine Derrey and Georgina Simpson a stroke behind in fourth.

Second round leader Leigh Whittaker tied for eighth place with Fabienne In-Albon and first round leader Charley Hull ended in share of 10th, after a triple bogey on 11 effectively ended her title hopes in the last round.