PALM SPRINGS - With a new outlook and a new caddie, Lee-Anne Pace is feeling good.
Two weeks ago Pace switched caddies, adding her friend of 15-years Johan Swanepoel to her bag.
“Yeah, I’m feeling great. I’m very calm out there. Like I said I have my friend on the bag, which he relaxes me, we laugh a lot; we have a great time,” says Pace. “He’s Afrikaans as well, so we get to speak Afrikaans, which is great.”
Friday afternoon, Pace successfully made a few adjustments to the increasingly firmer, faster greens during the second round of ANA Inspiration, carding a 2-under par, 70 to finish in a great position heading into the weekend, only one-shot back of leader Lexi Thompson.
One fan has taken a particular interest in the South African’s success this week.
Gary Player is retweeting her interviews.
Pace admits to not having worked with Player or knowing him too well but says she’s played with him a few times in the Gary Player Invitational.
“He’s an awesome guy, always follows golf, a very good South Africa golf ambassador, so that’s pretty awesome,” said Pace. “Player is always retweeting when I do well or when any SA golfer does well. He’s on top of things, so that was very nice of him.”
As with many South African golfers, Player is an icon in golf and a role model for many on and off the course. Pace remembers watching him play as she was growing up since her father was a fan and followed his career. It’s his signature walk through the swing she remembers most.
“I remember that shot that he hits when he walks through the ball, little things like that, that make him Gary,” recalls Pace.
Player is no stranger to fitness, named Mr. Fitness in 1950 because of his dedication to exercise and to improve his golf game. His fitness program consists of 1,000 sit-ups a day, so when he suggested that Pace do more of her own she took the advice to heart.
“He said to me I have to do more sit-ups, so I’m trying to get on that, and hopefully I’m doing better with that.”
Feeling a little burnt out towards the end of last season, missing her family and home, she took some much needed time to work on her fitness and mental game.
“I took three months off, which is unheard of. I didn’t touch a club for two of the three months and I did a lot of mental training,” said Pace. “I went to a Sports Psychologist, Eugene Oppelette, and I worked quite intensively with him on my mental game. I also did a lot of fitness training, and it’s helped me quite a bit on my golf swing.”
The break was just what she’s needed, an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends and to evaluate if she wanted to continue playing on the LPGA Tour.
“I made sure that I wanted to be out here, and I do,” explained Pace. “I really want to be out here and play well. I love the LPGA, I love America, and I love playing in America, so I’m really happy and in a good space right now. I’m surrounding myself with a very positive group, my manager, coach everybody around me is just amazing.”