The first thing you see when you walk into the house in Danabaai, Mossel Bay, is a wall of trophies in a display cabinet, one of them a first in the history of South African sport.
It’s the Ladies European Tour’s Henderson trophy awarded to the golfer who wins the most prize money in the European women’s series – and SA’s Lee-Anne Pace recently brought it home from Dubai.
She was awarded the trophy in December after the last round of the Dubai Masters, in recognition of the R3 million she had earned with her golf clubs in 2010.
Not only is this 29-year-old the first South African to win the award, she was also chosen by her peers as Player of the Year.
Now she’s back in her home country to celebrate her most successful year ever on the golf course with her parents in the southern Cape.
A newspaper poster mounted on the wall proclaims, “Southern Cape – another golf hero.” Like Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the British Open last year, Lee-Anne is a member of the Mossel Bay club. He has congratulated her on her achievement.
In fact the response to her achievement has been overwhelming and she’s humbled by the high praise she has received from golfing legends such as Gary Player and Ernie Els.
“When I was standing on stage and they were presenting the award to me they said there were a few messages,” Lee-Anne says, recalling her big moment in Dubai.
“I thought they were from family and friends, then I heard Gary Player’s voice saying he wished I were his daughter. I just started crying.”
Ernie Els, her biggest hero and source of inspiration, was the next to congratulate her.
“Just because the paths of men and women’s golf cross so seldom doesn’t mean we guys don’t know what’s happening on your fairways. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge your achievements this year and we wish you much luck from South Africa.”
Lee-Anne and Gary Player’s paths have crossed on the golf course. She played with him for three weeks in his Invitational series in aid of charity.
“He’s always so calm on the golf course. I think that’s what I appreciate most – that he does his thing in such a calm way. Not like Tiger Woods who has outbursts on the course. That’s not my personality. I also take it easy,” Lee-Anne says of the greats of the golfing world, a select club of which she’s now a member.
Read the full article in YOU, 6 January 2011.