This week, South African Lee-Anne Pace returns to Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya, China, which was the scene of her fourth Ladies European Tour victory 12 months ago.
Since winning the 2010 LET Henderson Money List last December after five tournament victories, the 30-year-old from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape has enjoyed a string of top ten finishes, but can she retain the title she earned with a three-round total of 205, 11 under par, last year?
Lee-Anne: the Sanya Ladies Open has many warm memories for you after last year. Describe your feelings and emotions coming back to Yalong Bay Golf Club.
I am really excited to return to Yalong Bay. I love the place and I love the golf course. Everyone is so nice and I feel very welcome.
You have your own suite at the golf club now. How does that feel and is it extra special?
Yes of course. I can’t wait to stay there. It's a stunning suite.
How confident do you feel about your chances of retaining the title?
I am very confident. I really like the course and I have been playing well lately. It seems like I have been playing well when defending tournaments this year so I am looking forward to playing.
How much do you want to win and why?
I would love to win again. I have come very close this year and believe that I have a good chance as I am playing well.
What do you like about China, having won two titles back to back in 2010?
I have always enjoyed coming to China, in fact I am came four days early to spend in Shanghai to see the city and experience the culture a bit more. Yalong Bay is a fantastic place and everyone in China is always very nice and polite. And of course I love noodle soup.
What do you like about Yalong Bay Golf Course and does it suit your eye?
I like the greens and I think it is a good lay-out. Driving is important and there are some tricky holes but there is also a risk reward factor which I like in golf courses.
How has life changed since winning the Henderson money list last December?
Life is pretty much the same except I can afford to do a lot more now…:) I have moved into a place in South Africa and have really enjoyed decorating it. It is nice to have more freedom. I have started surfing but after recent shark attacks in SA I am not sure that is the most relaxing sport I could have found, so I am now considering taking up mountain biking in the off season and would like to go white water rafting.
How do you assess your season to date?
I have played really well this season. My stats are almost the same and in places have improved. For instance I am hitting 7% more greens than last year, more fairways and I am hitting it longer. These were all goals that I set in the beginning of the year. I have come really close to winning again and believe I have a good chance to win any week. I believe if you reach your smaller goals the big ones will take care of itself. Unfortunately I have not played well in the Majors but it is all part of gaining experience.
What are your goals now for the rest of the season?
I would really like to defend China successfully and hopefully finish within the top 10 in the Henderson Money List.
Will you take a break after Dubai and what are your plans for 2012?
Yes I will take four weeks off but will still do physical training. I am planning on going to Australia but will see what happens. I am pretty relaxed and will meet with my coaches in Jan to plan the year. They already have some ideas on how to improve even more. I am excited to have a rest and enjoy my new place for a while.