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Lee-Anne Pace first female golfer to withdraw from Rio Olympics

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The Sports Xchange
Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa has become the first female golfer to withdraw from the Rio Olympics. Photo by Wojciech Migda
Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa has become the first female golfer to withdraw from the Rio Olympics. Photo by Wojciech Migda

While several of the world's top male golfers have withdrawn from the Olympics citing fears about the Zika virus, most of the top women's players have said they intend to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

South African Lee-Anne Pace became the first female golfer to officially withdraw from the Games. The 35-year-old is 38th in the Rolex Rankings and has 10 professional wins in her career.

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"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," Pace wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

"I hope that everyone can understand that this was a very difficult decision to come to, however my health and my future family's health must come first."

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Meanwhile, top-ranked Lydia Ko and No. 2 Brooke Henderson, who are both teenagers, have said they will play, as has No. 4 Lexi Thompson. Third-ranked Inbee Park remains undecided as she continues to rest an injured left thumb that will keep her out indefinitely. Players have until July 11 to decide.

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"It's not every week, not every year you get to do this," said Ko, 19, who will represent New Zealand, via Golfweek. "To represent your country amongst the world best athletes in other sports. So I'm super excited about it, and there is just so many positives from Rio that golf can take."

Thompson said ahead of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship earlier this month that winning a gold medal would be among her life's top achievements.

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"It's an amazing experience to be able to say you're an Olympian ... It's an honor to represent your country in any tournament, for that matter, but to be an Olympian is the highest honor."

Stacy Lewis is the second-ranked American and ninth in the Rolex Rankings, and her agent said earlier this week that she plans to play in the Olympics. However, fellow Americans Gerina Piller and Brittany Lincicome are uncertain if they will participate should they qualify. Piller, ranked 16th in the world, would need a top-10 finish at the U.S. Women's Open to qualify.

Brittany Lincicome – UPI file
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"It's a very hard decision for us to make," Piller said last week, per Golfweek. "I'm just kind of taking the attitude of, I'll cross that bridge when I get there."

Lincicome was married six months ago, and said she is concerned about the mosquito-born virus as she looks to begin a family in the next few years.

"Everyone is making it sound like it's OK," said the 25th-ranked Lincicome. "But for some reason it's really worrying me. I feel like I've dreamt my whole life of becoming a mom and having a baby. To not be able to do that just because of one golf tournament would be crushing."

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