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Retired Grand Slam champ Ash Barty shows her skills in quest for NZ Pro-Am Championship

NCA NewsWire -

Ash Barty put on her competitive face once again in her quest for the New Zealand Pro-Am Championship with a brilliant chip from left of the 16th green at Millbrook all the evidence anyone needed to suggest should she want to, a sport-swap could happen.

But it won't be.

The retired grand slam champ, who said she has only played "probably 2-3 rounds in the past 12 months" found herself in the rare position of being outside the top 100 early in her competitive return to sport as golfer in the New Zealand Open before a late rally helped her find a more competitive place on the leaderboard.

Barty, who shocked the sporting world when she announced her retirement aged just 25 following her Australian Open triumph in 2022, was playing alongside friend and professional Louis Dobbelaar at Millbrook Resort in Queenstown.

The three-time grand slam champion, who plays off a handicap of four, was in a four-ball alongside Australian cricket legend Ricky Ponting and his pro partner, Marcus Fraser, in the two-player, best-ball event.

After making it to just four-under through their opening nine holes, the Barty party was sitting in a tie for 108th on the leaderboard, and eight-shots behind the opening day pace.

But amid elements of class from Barty there came the stunning chip on the 16th to rescue a par and the now 27-year-old and her playing partner finished at seven-under, after a final hole birdie from Dobbelaar, and in a tie for 47th overall.

"I played probably 2-3 rounds in the past 12 months and I played 2 rounds this past week so we're about par but honestly, I am looking forward to it, it's a beautiful golf course and a stunning place to play golf," she said.

"I am very lucky to be here and be a part of it."

Barty said golf was a great "hobby" in her post-tennis world.

"I love playing as a hobby and it's obviously lovely to get outside for 18, go for a walk, and enjoy it," she said.

Ponting and his partner fared a touch better getting to eight-under, including a brilliant birdie from the former Test captain on the par three 16th, followed by one from his partner on the 17th.

Ash Barty and Ricky Ponting at Millbrook Resort. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ash Barty and Ricky Ponting at Millbrook Resort. (Image: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Victorian Matthew Griffin and veteran Scott Hend shared the overall lead in the tournament after the opening day at seven-under.

Griffin, 40, said his effort could lead to a rethink in his plan to become a part-time golfer after he began a transition to life away from being a full-time golfer.

"I felt like I had been playing all right the last couple of years but I hadn't put the results on the board," he said.

"We've got another event in a couple of weeks at The National and after that I'll be looking after the kids at home for a few months during the year.

"But with the Asian Tour co-sanctioning (the NZ Open), if I can be at the right end of the leaderboard on Sunday you never know, it might be a bit more golf."

NCA NewsWire

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