Lee-Anne Pace defeated rookie Yu Yang Zhang with a birdie on the first play-off hole to win the Sanya Ladies Open for the second time in tropical Hainan, China.
The 32-year-old South African came from one stroke behind overnight leader Ye Na Chung of Korea to tie with China’s Zhang on 13 under par after 54 holes, but then showed her experience by rolling in a perfectly judged 20 foot putt from the back of the 18th green to win the play-off.
“I love it here. It’s a really nice feeling to come back and win here again,” said Pace, who won the inaugural Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in 2010.
“I started to get really pumped up towards the end and all the feelings came back from 2010 when I won here and I made a birdie on 16 in 2010 so I was really pumped up to go.”
Playing in hot and breezy conditions, Pace made a shaky start and dropped a shot at the second hole but birdied the third before setting up an excellent opportunity at the fifth, where she struck the ball to within a metre and a half of the hole from long range only to miss the putt.
She dropped a second shot on six but then made two birdies in a row on seven and eight to get one behind Chung, before the South Korean bogeyed the 12th hole.
In a three-way share of the lead with Chung and Zhang, Pace then holed a three footer for birdie on the par-3 15th hole to go one stroke clear and extended her lead to two with a superb birdie on the long 16th hole.
After Ladies European Tour rookie Zhang set the clubhouse target at 13-under with a final round of 65, Pace three-putted on 17 dropping back into a share of the lead.
Needing a final-hole birdie to win in regulation, Pace’s birdie putt from 12 feet dropped below the hole on the 18th green and both players returned to the tee.
Zhang, who has not yet won a professional golf tournament on any tour, decided to change her caddie from a local to Chinese National Team member Wang Xin, in order to converse on the course.
Both Pace and Zhang hit excellent drives and approaches to the green, but then Pace nailed a perfectly judged 20 footer from the back of the green, which rattled Zhang who missed her chance from 15 feet.
This was Pace’s third victory of the year after wins in Turkey and Spain and she moved to second on the LET Order of Merit.
For Zhang, the disappointment was clear to see but it was delight for the home fans with four Chinese players in the top seven places.
Not only did 22-year-old Zhang, from Guangzhou, record her career best finish, but 15-year-old amateur Yu Ting Shi finished at 11 under par in a tie for fourth with Linda Wessberg of Sweden.
Two strokes further back in a share of sixth place, China’s Jia Yun Li recorded a career low round 63 to end alongside fellow LET rookie Xi Yu Lin. Now 17, Lin kept her immaculate record intact with four top ten finishes from four starts in this tournament.
The Tour now moves north for the China Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open, which Pace also won in 2010, in a play-off.