Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
29 Jun 2016
9:02 pm

Pace joins top SA men on Rio sidelines

Wesley Botton

The SA No 1 and world No 38 said it had been a "difficult" decision.

Lee-Anne Pace; credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA

Top-ranked women’s golfer Lee-Anne Pace is the latest South African player to make herself unavailable for the Rio Olympics in August, citing concerns around the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity of being part of the South African golf team and the wider South African Olympic team,” Pace said in a statement on Wednesday.

“However, over recent months my team has been monitoring the situation regarding the Zika virus and finding out as much information as possible.

“After weighing up all the options and discussing it with my family and team, I have decided that due to the health concerns surrounding the Zika virus, I will not be participating.”

The SA No 1 and world No 38 said it had been a “difficult” decision, but she did not want to put her health and the health of her “future family” at risk.

“I’m a very proud South African and I love representing my country while I play on the LPGA Tour around the world.”

Pace was lying 20th in the latest Olympic rankings, which limited each nation to two players and did not include those who had officially withdrawn.

In her absence, world No 119 Paula Reto and No 207 Ashleigh Simon were expected to represent the nation in the women’s tournament, with both players listed high enough to be included in the field of 60 at the Games.

Pace joined the country’s top three men on the sidelines, after world No 12 Branden Grace, 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel previously revealed they would not turn out for the national team.

With their compatriots unavailable, 37-year-old veteran Jaco van Zyl and SA Open champion Brandon Stone were next in line to compete in Rio.

Van Zyl and Stone were 62nd and 100th in the world respectively, but both players were high enough in the global list to book their places in the Olympic men’s field.

South Africa’s best golfers were among a long list of international players who had made themselves unavailable for various reasons, despite the historic significance of the code returning to the programme at the multi-sport spectacle for the first time in 112 years.