Three shots into her first competitive outing in 20 months, Pamela Pretswell Asher was wondering if she had done the right thing by putting her head above the parapet again.
She’d just failed to get out of a greenside bunker at the tenth – her opening hole in the first round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club – and feared the worst.
“I was thinking if I didn’t get that second one out of the bunker I should probably just pick up!” the 30-year-old later admitted, half-joking, her feeling of dread having been replaced by then by a justifiable sense of satisfaction.
After starting with a double-bogey 6, Pretswell Asher covered the remaining 17 holes in four under for an opening 69 to sit handily placed and the best among seven Scots in the $1.5 million event. Having taken time out before and after the birth of her daughter, Kristy, last November, it was an encouraging start for the Lanark-born player, who is playing through an exemption as she feels her way back into things.
“Given it had been more than a year and a half since I last played, I’d be nervous if it was a club medal, much less the Scottish Open, and I was more nervous than I realised and have been for a long time,” said Pretswell Asher after signing her first card since the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic in December 2017.
“When I gave my driver back to Ryan (caddie and husband) at the opening hole, my hand was shaking. But that’s my best score in an LPGA-sanctioned event by quite a bit, so maybe I should have had Kristy a while ago!”
After calming those nerves with a run of five straight pars, she got up and down from just short of the green for a birdie at the par-5 16th, holed ten-footers for birdies at both the first and second then completed a brilliant fightback by converting a five-footer for a 4 at the par-5 seventh.
“I thought I’d make it a bit dramatic with the start!” she said, laughing. “Tee shot was fine, edge of the fairway. I just pushed it and found the bunker on the right of the green. Had the dream lie – absolutely not – there was a heap of sand behind it and I didn’t get it out.
“But after that I didn’t really put a foot wrong. I was quite calm because I’ve been playing pretty well in practice. I just kind of hung in there. As Ryan was saying, the start was probably a pretty good thing for me to get the rubbish and drama out of the way first and then be pretty much stress-free.”
Carly Booth and Kylie Henry were next best among the home contingent with 70s, while Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, who finished bogey-bogey, and Kelsey MacDonald both opened with 71s. “Obviously a disappointing finish,” said two-time winner Matthew. “I played pretty well, really. I had a couple of silly three-putts then messed up the last.”
Gemma Dryburgh, who has been enjoying an encouraging second season on the LPGA, had to settle for a 73 after starting bogey-bogey, with Michele Thomson also facing a battle to be among the top 70 and ties progressing to the weekend after a disappointing 75.