Cape Town - Lee-Anne Pace was right where she loves to be when action wrapped up on day one of the Cape Town Ladies Open in the Mother City on Monday.
Confirming the old adage that form is temporary, but class is permanent, Pace went around King David Mowbray's 5 622m course in level par 72 to open up a one-shot lead in the Sunshine Ladies Tour 2020 season-opener.
The former LPGA Tour winner and nine-time Ladies European Tour champion was delighted to lay down a marker in the 2020 Sunshine Ladies Tour season-opener.
"I played maybe four competitive rounds in the last six months and I haven't played the course before, so my expectations was pretty low," Pace said.
"I made a really bad start with a double on the second hole and a quick bogey after on the fourth.
"I got one shot back on the sixth and had a pair of birdies coming home to get it back to level. But really, my caddie was the hero of the day. He was absolutely brilliant."
Sixteen-year-old Jere Brits, a former Bridge Fund Managers Junior Series winner who plays out of Durbanville Golf Club, is the son of one of Pace's close friends.
"Jere knows the course really well and I asked him to take the bag. The course is definitely interesting. It is heavily tree-lined and with the wind gusting at 45km/h, it was playing very tight. He was brilliant with clubbing, the lines and the greens. I couldn't have done it without him. Jere wanted to get a little taste of the pro circuit, and it's nice that he is learning a little bit from me, but really, it's the other way around. He is teaching me a great deal."
Pace leads by one shot from a group of four players, including last year's Order of Merit winner Nobuhle Dlamini.
Fresh from securing her card for the 2020 Ladies European Tour season, the Dlamini lived up to her billing as the pre-tournament favourite when she turned two-under, but fatigue caught up with the big-hitting eSwatini golfer on the homeward stretch.
A series bogeys coming home will see Dlamini start the second round in joint second on one-over with Astrid Vayson De Pradenne from France, Durbanville rookie Tara Griebenow and Silver Lakes amateur Larissa du Preez.
"I was driving the ball really well at the start of the round, but definitely felt myself fading on the back nine," she said.
"I hit some bad shots, including the 7-iron that landed me in the water on 18. I am not too unhappy with the score, though.
"I arrived back from Spain on yesterday morning and only checked into the hotel here in Cape Town close to midnight after some delays with my flight. I could feel my focus slipping on the back nine, but I love this course. It really suits my eye and my game. Hopefully I get a really good night’s sleep and I can give Lee-Anne a run for her money in the second round."
Reigning SA Women's Masters champion Lejan Lewthwaite and 2019 SuperSport Ladies Challenge winner Jane Turner from Scotland - who both broke through for maiden titles on the windy KwaZulu-Natal south coast last year - carded matching 74s to tie seventh.
Catherine Lau from Woodhill, 2019 Jabra Ladies Classic winner Anne-Lise Caudal from France and American Jordy LaBarbera, making her debut on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, rounded out the top 10 on three-over 75.
First Round Scores
(All competitors RSA unless otherwise stated and amateurs are indicated AMA)
72 - Lee-Anne Pace
73 - Larissa du Preez (AMA), Astrid Vayson De Pradenne (FRA), Tara Griebenow, Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ)
74 - Lejan Lewthwaite, Jane Turner (SCO)
75 - Catherine Lau, Jordy LaBarbera (USA), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA)
76 - Georgia Oboh (NGA), Stacy Bregman, Bianca Lohbauer (AMA), Yolanda Duma, Kim Williams, Kyle Roig (PUR)
78 - Nicole Garcia
79 - Michaela Fletcher, Lindi Coetzee
80 - Bianca Wernich AMA, Zethu Myeki, Zilke Bal (AMA)
81 - Cara Gorlei, Chiara Contomathios
82 - Shawnelle de Lange, Siviwe Duma
83 - Brittney-Fay Berger, Bobbi Brown (AMA)
84 - Kim de Klerk (AMA)
85 - Nina Grey (AMA)
88 - Madeleen Grosskopf
91 - Cassidy Williams
96 - Luzelle Booyens