After making a quadruple-bogey 9 on Magna Golf Club’s 14th hole on Thursday at the CP Women’s Open, Lee-Anne Pace withdrew from the event, citing a back injury that’s been plaguing her throughout the season. This is news that would have gone completely unnoticed if not for one peculiar wrinkle involving the inaugural Aon Risk Reward Challenge.
Pace, who is 132nd on the LPGA’s money list with just $43,433 in earnings this year, was leading the season-long competition entering the week, with an average of -0.818 (in relation to par) on the year. Players take their best two scores on the designated Aon Risk Reward hole each week, and at the end of the season the player with the best average wins $1 million. It just so happened that this week’s hole was the par-5 14th, where Pace made a 9 and withdrew.
Her WD negates her score for the week, meaning it won’t count in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, so she keeps her lead. Pace is well aware of how it looks, but insisted afterward that the injury is very real. Golf Channel’s Randall Mell caught up with Pace following the round and defended her decision.
“I know what it looks like, but I can guarantee that’s not the case,” Pace tol Mell. “It’s all legitimate. It just happened to happen there, on that hole. I understand what people are going to think. They’re going to think what they think, but I feel, under the circumstances, I did the right thing, to not keep playing with a bad back.”
Pace said she made the injury worse during her 14th hole debacle, specifically on her second shot, which found a bunker and left her with an awkward stance for her third.
“I took a swing, and the left side of my back just got stuck,” she said.
She was able to finish the hole, then hit a tee shot into the rough on the 15th hole, where she realized her tournament was over.
“I said ‘I’m sorry I can’t play,’ and then I went to a rules official and explained the situation,” Pace said. “From there, I went off the course and immediately to the Canadian Open doctor on site.”
Pace’s injury is so painful that it’s caused the 38-year-old South African to consider retirement.
“I just think it’s about getting older, and wear and tear,” Pace said. “Hopefully, I can get my body sorted out.”
According to Mell’s report, Pace is scheduled to play in next week’s Cambia Portland Classic, the Indy Women in Tech Championship in September and the Volunteers of America Classic in October. In order to be eligible for the Aon Risk Reward Challenge’s $1 million prize, Pace needs to play 40 rounds. She’s played 39 rounds on the LPGA Tour this season.