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18th February 2017 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Garcia keeps control at Di-Data Challenge

Nicole Garcia will be acutely aware of a chasing pack bidding to thwart her charge towards a second Sunshine Ladies Tour title when she starts the final round of the Dimension Data Challenge at Fancourt.

Garcia opened with a 68 and second round 71 at George Golf Club was good enough to keep the Benoni golfer at the top of pile at five under 139, however, there are seven proven winners within five strokes of her lead.

Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace and Tandi von Ruben navigated the parklands layout in 70 strokes to finish one shot back, while Carrie Park carded a 74 to finish three off the pace.

Ladies European Tour winners Anne-Lise Caudal from France and Rebecca Hudson from England, rookie Ivanna Samu and Ladies Tshwane Open winner Kiran Matharu are tied for fifth at level par.

Caudal returned a 73 and the English duo both posted rounds of 72. Samu mixed four birdies with a brace of bogeys for a two under 70.

Garcia moved to seven under with a birdie start and further gains at 11 and 13, but bogeys at the 18th and second let the pack back in. After a birdie-bogey combo at five and six, she parked her approach at 18 close to set up a birdie finish.

“I’ll definitely have a target on my back,” said the 26-year-old Serengeti golfer. “I started really hot, but I let it slip when the rain and the wind showed up. The putts weren’t dropping, but I pulled it together towards the end.

“The final round is going to be really tight, because they are all great players. I’ll need to widen the gap, but I can’t get too aggressive, either. I predict a battle to the final putt.”

Pace pushed past Garcia to take the lead with a trio of birdies at 15, 16 and 17, but for a second successive day, she let the lead slip. She dropped shots at six and seven and a two under 70 handed her a share of second with Von Ruben.

“I lost focus in the first round and I went and did it again today,” said the 36-year-old LPGA Tour winner. “I hit the ball really well and holed some long putts for my birdies, but I’ll need to keep my head in the game on Sunday if I want to defend this title. Everyone around me is playing really well and I can’t afford to let my concentration slip if I want to win again.”

Von Ruben’s last visit to the winner’s circle was in 2014 when she beat Magda Kruger in a play-off for the Sun International Ladies Challenge.

“I’m not even thinking about winning this yet, but it’s great to have winning form again,” said the Randpark golfer. “I played very nicely in the Cape Town Ladies Open last week, so it’s fantastic to be going into the final round in the final match two weeks in a row.

“My only goal is to make the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final. If I can pull off a top three finish it will go long way in protecting my top 10 spot in the Points Standing. If I end up with the trophy in my hands on Sunday, it will be a huge bonus.”

PHOTO – Nicole Garcia; credit Sunshine Ladies Tour.