Controversial loophole could help LPGA pro win $1 million challenge

August 24, 2019
Lee-Anne Pace WD at 2019 CP Women's Open

At this week’s CP Women’s Open on the LPGA Tour, Lee-Anne Pace withdrew toward the end of the first round when a nagging hip injury was re-aggravated. The mid-round WD negated her scores for the day, which conveniently kept her in first place in a season-long competition with a $1 million prize. Given the optics, questions arose about the nature of her exit from the event.

The WD occurred on 15th hole at Magna Golf Club on Thursday. Pace had just made a disastrous quadruple-bogey 9 at 14, which happened to be the hole identified as part of the season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge. The challenge averages players’ two best scores on the chosen hole at each tournament, with a running average deciding the winner at the end of the year. Pace is currently in the lead by .49 shots over Hyo Joo Kim.

After hitting her tee shot on 15, Pace withdrew from the tournament. The WD canceled her crooked number on 14, so it won’t count towards the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, preserving her lead. On Friday, Pace defended her actions in the face of hushed criticism.

In an interview with Golf Channel, the 38-year-old LPGA veteran declared that her withdrawal was entirely “legitimate” and had nothing to do with her position in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge.

“I know what it looks like, but I can guarantee that’s not the case. It’s all legitimate. It just happened to happen there, on that hole, Pace said. “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 the injury was nothing new and that she has “always had problems” with her hips. She told Golf Channel that a trip to the trainer after her WD found that her “hips were completely out of place.”

“One of my legs was about 5 centimeters longer than the other leg, which is quite a lot,” Pace explained. “The physio just sort of put the hips back in place. That’s what was causing the problems with my lower back.”

This controversy aside, Pace still has not locked up the Aon Risk Reward grand prize. While she still leads the competition, she needs to play in 40 rounds to be eligible for the bonus. As of now, she has only recorded 35 rounds that count towards the challenge.

With the season winding down, she only has a few more opportunities to rack up enough rounds to collect the win.

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