Competing with Laura Davies, a four-time Major winner, for the Henderson Money List on the Ladies European Tour, was a challenge that initially did not find favour with Lee-Anne Pace, the current leader. But as the season progressed, the genial South African's psyche underwent a change. "After Switzerland (the Deutsche Bank Swiss Open, the first of her five titles this year), I am mentally up there and go into every event believing I can win," said the 29-year-old.
The setting at the DLF Golf & Country Club on Tuesday was such that Lee-Anne had little chance to shy away from the limelight. The initial reluctance was apparent — "I knew that was coming," reply to a query on the order of merit tussle, but as the afternoon wore, she came about to embrace the occasion.
Misplaced bags meant the manicured greens were the last thing on the 47-year-old Laura's mind. Even as the Englishwoman embarked on a frenetic exercise to retrieve her equipment in time for the $300,000 Hero Honda Women's Indian Open, which gets underway from Thursday, Lee-Anne quietly savoured every moment of her maiden trip to this country. The early lack of keenness led to a disappearing act, but a session with physio during the period seemed to work well. Not only were the tired muscles soothed after a long flight, it seemed to whet Lee-Anne's appetite to take questions. They came in droves, but not for once did the famous smile dimmed.
"I like to smile," she said. Noticing the gaze had settled on the smiley badge on her cap, she continued, "I have one on my bag too. A company that makes it approached me with the request if I could adorn it. It was welcome, noticing it (the badge) at the tee works well."
The tendency to reflect on the win in Switzerland was noticeable. "It was a big tournament. The top-5s last season helped me to be where I am and it was here that I pulled through, courtesy a couple of big shots and putts."
If the going gets tough, music is a fallback. "Whenever I'm nervous, I sing, and it calms me down. The song could go unchanged for weeks or could flip overnight. I'll let you know about the number this week," she said with a twinkle.