Toxic smog forced Pamela Pretswell Asher out of Indian Open

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Health fears due to toxic smog led to one of Scotland’s leading golfers locking herself in a hotel room after pulling out of last week’s Women’s Indian Open.

Pamela Pretswell Asher, who has been the top Scot on the Ladies European Tour for the last two seasons, joined French player Sophie Giquel-Bettan in deciding to withdraw from the event in Gurgaon, a city 20 miles southwest of the capital, New Delhi.

Smog levels in parts of India have reached 40 times the safe level recommended by the World Health Organisation, with United Airlines cancelling all flights to New Delhi earlier this week.

“The pollution levels were off the charts in Delhi, they declared a state of emergency with the toxic smog as it was the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes a day,” said Pretswell, who travelled to India but did not play.

“The particles are so small that they can get into your lungs and blood stream and the damage that is done by breathing in the particles is irreversible. So I looked at all the medical advice available and talked to various people, including a couple of doctors, and I decided that I didn’t want to take any health risks.

“It was the first time I have ever withdrawn from a tournament in my career, except in New Zealand last year when I had to pull out due to injury. But, for me, it was an easy decision in the end as health comes first.”

Pretswell has now moved on to China, where the Sanya Ladies Open gets underway at Yalong Bay Golf Club on Friday. “I’m really looking forward to the week ahead here in Sanya,” she added. “I have always enjoyed this event and, after a few days stuck in a hotel, it will be great to be back on the golf course.”

Michele Thomson didn’t share Pretswell Asher’s concerns about playing in India and was rewarded with a second-place finish – a career-best effort in the pro ranks.

“I enjoyed every minute in India and can’t wait to return in 2018,” said the Aberdonian. She is not only in this week’s event but is also guaranteed a spot in the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic next month.