SA stars call for more support
On the eve of the South African Women’s Open at Selborne Park Golf Club, the country’s leading female golfer, Lee-Anne Pace, has called on local government and businesses to become involved and show their support for women’s professional golf in South Africa.
Pace, a five-time Ladies European Tour champion and former money list winner, said the return of the country’s premier professional golf tournament to the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule should provide the kick-off point to establishing a new ladies professional tour.
“I know that women’s professional golf in South Africa have had their problems and virtually disappeared off the radar in the last couple of years,” said Pace. “The time has come to forget the past and look forward and into the future. We currently have seven South Africans playing in Europe. If the Sanlam SA Women’s Amateur Match Play Championship is anything to go by, there is a wave of amateurs waiting in the wings and many more coming through the junior ranks.
“We need investment in the future of our rising stars. We need to provide these players with a competitive platform to bridge the gap between amateur and professional golf. And we need to give non-travelling professionals the chance to make a living in South Africa.”
Pace hoped that provincial government and local businesses will take a leaf from the sponsors and hosts of the 2012 South African Women’s Open.
“The commitment and support of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and Hibiscus Coast Municipality has helped the WPGA to resurrect the SA Women’s Open and this has brought the Ladies European Tour back to South Africa,” she said.
“A co-sanctioned tournament is not only a revenue stream. It gives South African professionals the chance to test themselves against the best players from Europe, and it showcases the province and South Africa to an enormous tourism market.”
Pace’s plea drew support from two-time LPGA winner, Sally Little, and former SA Open winners Mandy Adamson, Lesley Copeman and Barbara Pestana.
“We have had a drought in this country for the last three years and I think the girls have done a great job taking their games elsewhere,” said Adamson, a three-time SA Open champion in 1995, 1997 and 2002.
“There is so much depth in women’s golf in our country and there is a very strong contingent of young golfers coming through. There has to be a platform for that talent to be nurtured and developed. They are starting out their careers and they deserve to have a chance to develop their careers. We all agree that it’s fantastic to have the SA Women’s Open back on the international schedule, but we sincerely hope that this is just the start of things to come.”
The South African Women’s Open will have a field of 84 players, including 13 of the country’s leading amateur golfers, who come from 20 countries and will compete for a total purse of R2.7 million.