Golf: Ko sure to be fans' favourite

Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko
Lydia Ko will play three rounds at next week's New Zealand PGA, and is looming as the golfer to watch at the event.

The tournament may have attracted the likes of Hale Irwin, George Gregan and Sir Ian Botham, but Ko appears to be the player to see.

Ko (15) played in the event last year and her celebrity status ensures she will line up on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

PGA tournament director Michael Glading knows very well Ko will be a huge drawcard for spectators all three days she is involved in the tournament.

''She adds a huge amount to this tournament. Between her and Hale Irwin we have two major golf attractions. She is one of the biggest names in world golf right now,'' Glading said.

''It's been said a hundred times already over the last week, but she is unique. She is a unique player and words kind of fail.''

Ko is the world's top-ranked amateur and holder of the US amateur championship.

Last year, she became the youngest player to win an LPGA event as well as the first amateur to win one for 43 years.

She was only 12 when she made her debut at the New Zealand Open and finished in seventh place.

There has been some confusion over whether Ko is playing at the The Hills as just a celebrity, or as an amateur who will have to qualify on Friday to play in the weekend.

But Glading confirmed Ko is playing as a celebrity and will play all three days.

Glading said Ko would be placed in the final group with the top-ranked professionals.

''In reality she will play near the final group.''

Following the seeding round, each amateur will be placed with one of the professionals to play as a two-ball, best-ball team over the weekend.

How Ko performs in the professional men's game will be one of the star attractions of the tournament, as it was last year when she was paired with New Zealanders Mark Brown and Michael Hendry and Hollywood actor Don Cheadle on the last day of play.

Glading said the NZPGA tournament for Ko was somewhat of a relaxed event and one she had looked forward to since last year.

''She's genuinely looking forward to coming to this tournament. She loves Queenstown.

''She'll enjoy this week. That's our goal for her.''

She will return straight from the LPGA tournament in Thailand, which starts tomorrow, and then head to Queenstown next Wednesday for a practice round at The Hills in the morning.

Tournament organisers have not reeled in anyone of Cheadle's status this time around, but Glading said the calibre of sporting celebrities such as Ko would be exciting for those walking alongside the fairways.

''We got what we got. We didn't get Hollywood, but have a really strong sport line-up.''