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18th July 2014 | Sunshine Ladies Tour

Pace within striking distance in Ohio

2014LeeAnnePace_3_SLTA superb opening round at the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Classic in Ohio lifted South Africa’s Lee-Anne Pace within four shots of first round leader, Laura Diaz from the United States.


The 15-year LPGA Tour veteran reeled in nine birdies for a flawless 62 at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, while Pearl Valley’s Pace fired an opening five-under-par 66 to join American Austin Ernst in second.


Pace and Austin are one shot clear of half-a-dozen players at four under, including world number two Lydia Ko, Sunshine Ladies Tour regular Katie Burnett and Mo Martin, who is chasing back-to-back victories after her Ricoh British Women’s Open triumph on Sunday.


South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon opened with a one under 70 to tie for 33rd and compatriot Paula Reto returned a 73 to finish joint 74th.


Pace had a lone bogey at the par-four 12th, but negated the damage with a birdie at the par-three 14th and a brace of birdies at the 16th and 17th to turn in 35. The Investec Cup for Ladies champion drained a 25-foot slider for birdie at the par-four third to dip to three under, and knocked in two putts inside two meters for another pair at the sixth and seventh to complete the loop in 31 strokes.


“I’m really happy with this round,” the eight-time Ladies European Tour said. “I think the greens are quite receptive. I just hit it on the good side of the hole and pretty close. I’ve just been striking my irons really well and shaping it into the holes.”


The early blemish on her card didn’t worry Pace much.


“You know you're going to make some bogeys sometimes. My driver has been really straight; my irons have been progressively better each week. A good score was on its way. You just have to stay patient out there. Every week it's about staying patient and trying to get into contention and hopefully play well on the weekend.”


Pace said she was tired after four rounds at Royal Birkdale and the trip back to the United States.


“I got back on Monday and took a day off on Tuesday, went to see The Planet of the Apes. I was still a little zoned out on Wednesday and I haven't really been giving a lot of thought to anything. So I just listened to my caddie, hit it where he told me. It's went great and hopefully I can keep doing that.”


The former Ladies European Tour number one said a good result has been on the cards.


“I'm very happy the way I've been playing for the last few weeks. From the US Open, I started striking the ball really well. I saw a friend of mine who I worked with a little bit coaching wise at the British Open last week, and it’s just getting better and better every week.

“It's nice to be out on the LPGA for a change and see what I can do here. Hopefully I can carry that through to the weekend.”

Meanwhile two-time LPGA winner Diaz enjoyed a red-hot start with five successive birdies and was thrilled to better a previous career best 67 by five shots.


“It was great to get out and get five in a row,” the 39-year-old said. “I had a six, seven footer for six in a row. I just kept trying to hit good shots and make good putts. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to shoot 62. It’s nice to get a good feeling after round one.”


Martin showed no signs of fatigue as she went around bogey-free, as well.


“I’m pretty tired and still kind of feels like a dream,” said Martin. “I was joking around with the trainers saying, ‘Can you massage here because my face hurts a little bit from smiling.’ So still kind of surreal. But I was able to focus on my round today. Proud of that. Had a good time today.”


PHOTO – Lee-Anne Pace; credit ALPG.