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Ashleigh and Lee-Anne up the pace in Europe, US
- Updated: July 2, 2015
South Africa’s Ashleigh Simon is ready to tee it up in this week’s ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters at Buckinghamshire Golf Club while compatriot Lee-Anne Pace travels to Pennsylvania this week to put the final touches to her preparation ahead of the 70th US Women’s Open.
Simon joined fellow Sunshine Ladies Tour winners Stacy Bregman, Nicole Garcia and Monique Smit, as well as Melissa Eaton, Connie Chen, Laurette Maritz and Namibia’s Bonita Bredenhann in the Ladies European Tour (LET) event that tees off near London on Thursday.
After an up-and-down season on the LPGA Tour, Simon is targeting a return to form on familiar territory.
The two-time LET champion came close to clinching the title in 2013, but lost by a single stroke to seven-time Major champion Karrie Webb.
‘My swing has definitely improved and my overall game is really good,’ Simon said. ‘I’m starting to find form with the short game and I’m excited to work with my coach, Doug Wood, this week. I’m ready to turn a corner.’
If she can find the rhythm and pace on the fast and hard greens at Buckinghamshire, Simon could definitely be a contender this week.
Wanna Be A Champion stable-mate Garcia, whose performance at The International in Amsterdam was hampered by a niggling hip injury, is also back to full strength.
The one to watch, though, is Bregman, who tied for sixth in last year’s edition.
The Joburg professional was slow off the mark in her first three starts on the LET this season after claiming a hat-trick of victories on the 2015 Sunshine Ladies Tour.
Bregman is carrying some great form into this week, having tied for fourth in the Deloitte Ladies Open a fortnight ago.
Other notable names in the 144-strong field include LET champions Charley Hull, Melissa Reid, Dame Laura Davies, Solheim Cup stars Caroline Masson and Giulia Sergas, current order of merit leader Gwladys Nocera and 19-time tournament winner Trish Johnson.
Pace based herself in Tulsa, Oklahoma to give the LPGA Tour her full attention following a solid summer at home during which she also notched a trio of Sunshine Ladies Tour titles in the SuperSport Ladies Challenge, Ladies Tshwane Open and Investec Cup for Ladies.
After four months competing alongside the cream of women’s professional golf, Pace says she is very comfortable on the LPGA Tour and looking forward to her first look at Lancaster Country Club.
‘I am playing really well and every event brings more experience and exposure to this level of the game,’ Pace said. ‘The biggest adjustment has been to the length of the courses in the USA, which are far more challenging than the ones we compete on in Europe. ‘I am definitely moving in the right direction and my confidence is growing. A second LPGA victory is not out of reach.’
Pace is keen to improve on a career best tie for 43rd in the US Women’s Open she recorded at Pinehurst Number Two last year.
The nine-time Ladies European Tour winner has always owned a solid iron game, but Pace believes her short game will make the difference in this year’s Major from 9-13 July. ‘The US Women’s Open courses are traditionally very long and the fairways are well protected with punishing rough,’ she explained.
‘These courses always demands accuracy off the tee and a very strong short game. My swing is looking very good, but I am especially happy with the state of my short game.
‘I have worked incredibly hard on my short game, because a solid short game is key to contend at this level.’