Golf: Ko a starter for NZ Women's Open

Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko is a confirmed starter for the New Zealand Women's Golf Open in Christchurch in February.

The world No1 amateur, who this year became the youngest winner in the history of the LPGA Tour and the first Kiwi to win on that tour, will look to become the first home champion of the event held at the Clearwater Golf Club.

Ko, who made her debut at the New Zealand Women's Open as a 12-year-old in 2010 at Pegasus, recently played the course for the first time in the pro-am of the NZ Open where she reeled off eight birdies and a bogey for a seven-under-par 65.

"It was from the ladies' yellow tees so it was playing much easier," said the 15-year-old from Gulf Harbour.

"I like the course. It will be pretty challenging on the back nine when the wind gets up because there is a lot of water. I am looking forward to playing here in the New Zealand Women's Open. I have played well at Pegasus in the past and I think Clearwater will be a great host for the event."

Ko, who arrived at the 2012 event on the back of her record-breaking win at the NSW Open, attracted thousands of spectators and she is hoping the galleries come out at Clearwater.

"It is good to hear that there is a strong field coming down for the tournament and I look forward to the challenge of competing with them."

The national championship has attracted all four champions of the event so far in Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera (2009), England's Laura Davies (2010) and Australians Kristie Smith (2011) and Lindsey Wright (2012).

Davies has won 82 professional titles worldwide, with 20 victories on the LPGA. The 49-year-old from England, who is the first non-American to finish at the top of the LPGA money list, has won the LET Order of Merit a record seven times and is a four-time major champion.

The event, which will be staged from February 8-11 holds a special place in the New Zealand sporting landscape as with a purse of $315,000 it is the most lucrative women's sporting event in the country.