South African Lee-Anne Pace was the only player to win three titles on the LET in 2013, starting with the Turkish Airlines Ladies Open in May. Twelve months on, the eight-time Ladies European Tour event winner returns to National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya, to defend her title when the sixth edition of the tournament takes place at the same venue on May 8-11.
Once again, the tournament has attracted a stellar field of competitors and with live international television coverage over all four rounds as well as live streaming on LET YouTube for the first time this year, it will be an inspirational showcase of high performance international sport. Here, Lee-Anne discusses her ambitions for the event and in the longer term.
Lee-Anne, how much are you looking forward to returning to National Golf Club to defend your Turkish Airlines Ladies Open title?
I am very excited to return to National GC as I really enjoy playing there. We always get treated so well at this tournament and hopefully I can defend my title.
What are your abiding memories of your win at the venue last year and what did it feel like to win again?
It was such a wonderful feeling to win again. The win in Turkey inspired me for the rest of the year and it ended up being a great season for me. It’s always lovely to go to Turkey and the venue itself is beautiful.
What is your objective for this tournament?
Naturally I would like to defend my title, but I also understand that there are many variables that come into the equation when it comes to winning. I will take it one shot at a time and hopefully be in contention on the weekend.
What are the specific challenges of this golf course?
I personally think it is a very tough course. It’s very tight and therefore your driving and short game needs to be really good.
How have you been preparing for them?
Usually my short game is very reliable. On the week of the tournament I will be spending a lot of time pitching, chipping and putting. I will also spend some time on my woods.
What are your goals for the 2014 season and anything you would like to have achieved by December?
I will be very happy to win again during 2014. I will keep my game plan the same as always. One shot at a time and hopefully that gets me into contention again.
What are your longer term goals?
I would really like to compete in the Olympic Games. I think that would be such an amazing experience. I would also like to earn my full playing rights on the LPGA.
What has changed for you in the last 12 months?
The biggest and most exciting change has been my recent move to Pearl Valley Golf and Country Estate. I am so happy to live there where I have everything I need in one place. Not only is it gorgeous and peaceful, it is also completely safe and the best place in South Africa to practice. I absolutely love it.
Are there any changes in your game between then and now both technically and mentally?
No: all the same. I keep working on the same things in my swing in order to keep it consistent. Mentally I have the same approach as always: keep it in the fairway, hit the green and try to make the putt. Keep it simple 🙂
At this point in your career and after three wins on the 2013 LET circuit, what is your focus now?
My focus always remains the same when it comes to golf. I try not to make it too complicated. Just take it one shot at a time, one hole at a time and one tournament at a time. Whether it is a major or a small tournament, I try to think about it the same way.
How important was your win at home in SA and how did that impact your psychology?
It was very important for me to win the Investec Cup. As a personal sponsor, Investec has been very good to me and to be able to win their tournament made me feel very proud. To do it on South African soil made it so much more rewarding and I can’t wait for the Ladies Sunshine Tour again next year. I hope that more European Tour players will come and join us as that will help the tour to grow and hopefully establish more LET co-sanctioned tournaments in the future.
Who in golf has the most influence over you and why?
Probably my coaches and my caddie. I think all of us work really well together and I feel privileged to have such a good and caring team around me.
Who is the tour player you most admire and why?
Carlota Ciganda. I really like the way she plays golf. I think she is an amazing player with a great attitude. We always have fun when we play together.
For how long do you see yourself playing golf and what would you like to do after you finish playing competitively?
I would be happy to play until around 40, maybe a bit longer. I think I would like to start my own academy where I could personally be involved in the development of ladies golf in South Africa. I think there is so much talent here in SA and hopefully I can help grow women’s golf. I would also love to have my own restaurant.
Off the course, what are your other interests and what have been the recent highlights?
The three biggest highlights so far this year has been winning the Player of the year in South Africa, winning the Investec Cup and my move to Pearl Valley Golf and Country Estate. Other interests of mine are tennis, reading, movies, music and whenever I can get to it, stand-up paddle boarding.
How much do you enjoy coming to Turkey and Antalya as a tourist destination?
I always enjoy going to Antalya. It’s a fantastic place with a wonderful atmosphere and excellent food. It is always a treat to play this tournament.
For any young golfer thinking of making a career as a professional, what advice would you give them?
Always stay humble and respect the people around you. Take it one shot at a time and never ever give up.