Pamela Pretswell’s title challenge in the New Zealand Ladies Open ended in agony as the Hamilton woman was forced to withdraw due to a back injury during a dramatic final round in Christchurch.
On a day when world No 1 Lydia Ko shrugged off the effects of an earthquake to win her home Open for a third time, Pretswell played through the pain barrier for six holes at Clearwater Golf Club before reluctantly calling it a day.
It was the first time in her career that the 26-year-old had to either withdraw or retire from an event and she now faces a race against time to be fit for this week’s Australian Open.
“I was on the range this morning and my back just went, out of nowhere, as I was feeling great,” Pretswell told The Scotsman. “I’ve had back problems before but all has been good for a while, so it was a big disappointment.
“I saw the physio before I went out but only managed six holes and had to retire. I appear to have strained a joint in my lower back and have a lot of inflammation so need that to calm down before I can get any more treatment.”
Pretswell, the top Scot on the Ladies European Tour last season, had started out lying joint-third, two shots behind Ko, after encouraging opening rounds of 68 and 70 in her first event of 2016.
“It’s disappointing as I was really looking forward to today, but there’s nothing I can do,” added Pretswell, who is currently first reserve for the Australian Women’s Open and is due to tee up in a qualifier on Tuesday.
“It’s time to rest and get myself healthy. But I’ll certainly be taking the positives from my first two rounds as it is easily the best golf I have played and it was great to be back in contention.”
Not so great for Pretswell and the other players in the field was the 5.7-magnitude earthquake that hit the Christchurch area about 10 minutes before Ko was due to begin her final round.
“We were on the first hole waiting to tee off when the ground started moving,” said Pretswell. “It was a 5.7 so pretty big!
“There have been a few aftershocks since we got back to our hotel so have had to make a few quick exits from the building when they hit! A very bizarre feeling but everyone is safe.”
Ko signed off with a 70 for a ten-under 206 total, winning by two shots from England’s Felicity Johnson, South Korean amateur Hye-Jin Choi and Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
“It was lucky I wasn’t out there playing because I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of my swing and the ball moves somewhere else,” said the teenager afterwards.
“It’s been a long week, a lot of emotion and a lot of people to share this amazing victory with. Especially given how much New Zealand golf has been a support to me and my career.”
Rookie Gemma Dryburgh finished as top Scot in her first LET event, the Aberdeen player claiming a share of tenth spot by closing with a 69 for a four-under-par aggregate.
“I’m really pleased with the week, especially with it being my first LET event,” said Dryburgh, who secured her card with a top-10 finish at the circuit’s Qualifying School in Morocco in December.
“I played solid all three days but today was just that little bit better. The whole week was a lot of fun. I was especially pleased with my putting the last two days so hopefully I can keep that up and keep improving.”
Heather MacRae (70) finished joint-37th on level-par, three shots ahead of Kelsey MacDonald (73) in a share of 50th.