Golf: Ko to return for 2013NZPGA

Golf star Lydia Ko has confirmed she will again tee it up at the New Zealand PGA Championship in Arrowtown.

The boom rookie will be back as an invited amateur at the $600,000 tournament at The Hills in late February.

Ko, the best female amateur in the world, immediately becomes arguably the event's biggest drawcard, alongside English cricket great Sir Ian Botham.

She will be one of 68 amateurs (up from 62 in 2012) to be teamed with the professionals, as part of a two-ball, best ball competition over the final two days of the tournament.

Ko has cemented her reputation as the most exciting young player in world golf with another record-breaking year.

She became the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event at the Canadian Open, was the top amateur at the British Open, and won the US Amateur Championship.

Even with a full calendar ahead and busy year behind her, it was an easy decision for Ko to come back to The Hills.

"The NZ PGA Championship last year was an absolute blast and I had so much fun," she said.

"It's not often that you get to play alongside a Hollywood star, give golf tips to the prime minister, and take on the top male pros, so I was very keen to come and play in the tournament again."

New Zealand No 1 Danny Lee has failed to keep his PGA Tour card and will have to head to qualifying if he wants to return to the tour next year.

The former US Amateur champion needed a top-three result at the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic to finish inside the top 125 players on tour and keep his card. But he never threatened that result, shooting rounds of 74 and 72 for a 2-over total to miss the cut.

He finished 166th on the PGA Tour money list after earning $NZ416,000 - if he had finished inside the top 150, Lee would have earned entry into the final stage of qualifying school.

Instead, Lee will have to play the second stage of qualifying, where he will be joined by fellow Kiwis Josh Geary, Tim Wilkinson and Steve Alker, who all failed to finish inside the top 25 on the second-tier Tour and automatically qualify for the PGA Tour.


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