The Rose Ladies Series Grand Finale at Wentworth had to be suspended until Saturday morning as a wildfire encroached on the famous Surrey course. Play had to be abandoned as many of those on the ninth and 10th holes were struggling to breath.
The emergency services evacuated the course and what was supposed to be the final day of the tournament was suspended until 9.30am on Saturday.
There is doubt, however, that the whole field of 35 players will be able to return due to preparations for the resumption the Ladies European Tour, which returns with the Scottish Open next weekend. Sponsors American Golf and Computacenter are paying for all the players to stay an extra night. The nearby Sunningdale Golf Course also had to be evacuated.
Cara Gainer, who was in 16th place behind leader Alice Hewson, was more concerned about her safety than her scoring. “I am very stressed. It was quite terrifying how quick the fire was moving,” she said.
The fire started on Chobham Common and spread across railway tracks onto the course. “We were going down the ninth and there was suddenly a lot of smoke and we had a lot of difficulty breathing,” said Gainer, who lives in Maidenhead.
“But we finished the ninth and when we got to the 10th tee we could hear crackling. We then saw flames on the other side of the railway. We felt we shouldn’t be playing. Then suddenly the fire jumped the railway and onto the heather into the Wentworth course. I am lucky I live close by.”
Kate Rose, who founded the series alongside her golfer husband Justin, was concerned for the wellbeing of the players and for the course.
“I really hope that we can finish properly tomorrow, but more importantly that Wentworth are not going to have too much damage to their beautiful course,” she said. “It is very unfortunate and I desperately hope that everyone in the surrounding area will be safe and Wentworth will not suffer too much.”
Meanwhile, Charley Hull who is sitting in second place behind Hewson at four under par, will have to win the tournament if she is to claim the Order of Merit as overall series leader Georgia Hall is just one shot behind.