Golf: Taiwan tournament priority for Ko over interprovincial

Lydia Ko.
Lydia Ko.
The world's best women's amateur golfer, Lydia Ko, will not be playing in Dunedin next month and will be seen sparingly in this country next year.

Ko (15) has blazed a trail of success all round the globe over the past 12 months while remaining an amateur and was expected to be the major drawcard at the women's interprovincial championships to be held at the St Clair Golf Club next month.

But Ko's coach, Guy Wilson, confirmed yesterday the youngster would be playing in Taiwan at the same time as the event at St Clair.

She had been invited to the Swinging Skirts tournament in Taiwan which had now become a fully credited LPGA tournament.

The event, in which all players and officials have to wear skirts, used to be just an invitational competition. It will carry official world ranking points and would be played over three rounds after a charity skins game on December 6.

Wilson said it was a tough decision to make on where to play but the Taiwanese event held many attractions, playing against high-quality golfers, and a sanctioned event.

"It is disappointing she can not play in the interprovincials as it is something she always enjoys and has fun playing in," he said.

"She does not play in many team events so it would have been good to be part of a team.

"But this event in Taiwan is too good to turn down."

Ko, who has just finished her exams in year 11, is one of the hottest properties in the sport after winning the Canadian Open in August, one of the top tournaments in women's golf.

Earlier in the year, she won the New South Wales Open but, as with the Canadian event, she did not take any of the purse as she is still an amateur.

She is the top-ranked women's amateur player in the world after winning the Australian and United States amateur championships.

The Korean-born Ko has spent the past month and a-half studying for exams and is now back on the golf course practising her game.

She attends Pinehurst School on the North Shore and was likely to have been the North Harbour No 1 in the event next month.

Wilson said Ko's ability meant she would "sooner or later grow out of this calibre of event".

She was likely to play only three events in New Zealand next year.

One would be the New Zealand PGA in Arrowtown in late February, while she was also likely to play at the New Zealand women's Open at Pegasus in mid February and the New Zealand Amateur championships at Manawatu in April.

Wilson said Ko's calendar was being planned for next year and it would involve a lot of overseas play. But she would continue to attend Pinehurst School where possible and the trips overseas would be shorter than this year when she spent five months out of New Zealand.

The loss of Ko is a blow to the tournament, to be played from December 11-15.

It means the top male and top female amateur golfers would not be appearing at interprovincial tournaments in Dunedin next month.

Southlander Vaughan McCall, who is the country's No 1, is bypassing the men's event at the Otago Golf Club, from December 4-8, as he has been invited to play in the Australian Open.