AH, the rarefied air of sport in its upper echelons. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, mind you.
“The smog was horrendous in India recently and I had to withdraw from the Indian Open due to it,” reflected Pamela Pretswell Asher as she breathed in great, healthy gulps of clean Scottish air up at the Braid Hills facility overlooking Edinburgh during a junior clinic with Aberdeen Standard Investments.
Pretswell Asher is now in the desert of Dubai for the final event of the Ladies European Tour season.
In a limited, stop-start campaign on the troubled circuit which has been more like a dot-to-dot puzzle than a golfing schedule, the decision to pull out of an event when there have been so few playing opportunities was not taken lightly. For Pretswell Asher, though, it was necessary for her general well being
“It was fine when we got to India but the next day the course was shrouded in smog,” she explained. “It was the equivalent of smoking 50 cigarettes a day. You could play with a mask on but you were still coming back from the course and what was coming out of your nose was disgusting.
“I didn’t want to take the risk due to the long-term health effects. It wasn’t safe, in my opinion. One other girl who needed money to keep her tour card also didn’t play so that showed you how she felt about it.
“I didn’t go to the course on the Thursday after it had been pretty bad for the pro-am and after waking up on the Friday morning I decided that I was going to pull out. When you looked out the hotel window it was like pea soup.
“The particles are so small that it can get in your lungs and it is irreversible. I did a lot of reading – maybe too much – but you only get one chance and I wasn’t prepared to take what I thought was a risk by playing in conditions like that. I stayed in my hotel for three days and I think I got caught up on watching all TV viewing for the rest of my life.”
Pretswell Asher is hoping to finish the year with a flourish in a Dubai tournament that she describes as the “best event of the year out with the Scottish Open.”
The 28-year-old can still finish Scottish No 1 on the European circuit but needs to leapfrog both Carly Booth and Michele Thomson, who finished runner-up in India, on the order of merit.
“This is a tournament I really enjoy and it is one of the biggest on the schedule. I’ve been pretty happy with my game. I just haven’t seen the results I would have wanted, though I had a good week in China recently. In fact, that was the best golf I’ve played for a long time.
“My aim this week is to get a good finish to what has been a frustrating season. I think next year the schedule is looking better, though I don’t think it could be much worse, to be fair.”
Georgia Hall, the English Solheim Cup player who recently earned an LPGA Tour card at the qualifying school alongside Aberdeen’s Gemma Dryburgh, has effectively won the order of merit and will be another product of Europe to migrate to the riches of the US scene next season. It’s a well-trodden path, of course.
“For me, the sad thing is that the talent on the Ladies European Tour at the moment is the strongest it has been in the last five years,” said Pretswell Asher. “That’s the thing that frustrates me the most.
“We have so many good players but they don’t have anywhere to play. You don’t have to go to America if you don’t want to. But at the moment the only option is to go to the States. Georgia has to be there to progress her game.”