Johannesburg – Reigning Investec South African Women’s Open champion Lee-Anne Pace headlines the field for the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s 2023 season opener, the SuperSport Ladies Challenge presented by Sun International at Gary Player Country Club, which tees off on February 1 at Sun City.
And, as if to emphasise the growth of the circuit which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, there are players from 25 other countries in the line-up, together with 38 entrants from South Africa in a large field of 87.
Pace, who won her fifth national open title when she took a nail-baiting play-off victory on the sixth extra hole at Steenberg Golf Club over Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher in April last year, will be the player to catch at Sun City.
But players like Casandra Alexander and Nicole Garcia, both of whom had solid showings on the Ladies European Tour in 2022, will be itching to display their wares on the local tour that has six high-octane events on its schedule from the beginning of February until mid-March.
Last year, the local circuit heralded the emergence of Sweden’s Linn Grant as a world-class player. She won three times in South Africa – the Dimension Data Ladies Challenge, the Jabra Ladies Classic and the co-sanctioned Joburg Ladies Open – before winning two more titles on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
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The European circuit’s leading rookie and the Costa Del Sol winner in 2022 also became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour when she won the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed, beating, amongst others, her countryman Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open champion.
The importance of the Sunshine Ladies Tour as a springboard to international success was further underlined by the performance of South Africa’s Paula Reto, who won the SuperSport Ladies Challenge in her first appearance on home soil last year. After finishing second in the Jabra Ladies Classic a week later, the Capetonian returned to the LPGA Tour, where she captured her maiden title in the Canadian Open.
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The LET has underscored its commitment to the Sunshine Ladies Tour by again co-sanctioning the Joburg Ladies Open from March 1-4 March, and the Investec South African Women’s Open from 8-11 March. Both purses have been increased: The Joburg Ladies Open prize fund was boosted by 20 percent to €300,000, and the Investec South African Women’s Open will be worth €320,000.
If a long journey begins with the first step, it’s significant that Pace has committed to the first event of the 10th season; should she stay the course, the 11-time Ladies European Tour winner and 15-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion could set herself up for another good performance in the season finale – and a possible record sixth national open title.