Three-time grand slam champion Barty taking to the fairway

Ash Barty (left) at the New Zealand Open last year. "We love Queenstown. It’s a unique tournament...
Ash Barty (left) at the New Zealand Open last year. "We love Queenstown. It’s a unique tournament." Photo: Getty Images
Ash Barty knows how many times she has been asked if she is going to make a comeback to professional tennis.

"Probably just as many as whether I’m turning professional in golf.

"The answer is ‘no’ to both."

Barty is the genuine star power in the list of prominent amateur golfers lining up to play in the pro-am tournament in the New Zealand Open, starting at Millbrook Resort today.

Cricket greats Ian Botham and Ricky Ponting are back again, Australian television personality Andy Lee knows his way around a golf course, and the rugby fraternity is well represented by Jeff Wilson, Sean Fitzpatrick and Israel Dagg.

But only one of the golfers in the field has $US23 million ($NZ37.68m) in prize money and three grand slam singles titles to her name.

Barty looks fit and happy nearly two years after shocking the tennis world by retiring at 25, and while ranked No 1 in the world.

She has since married her golfer husband, Garry Kissick, and welcomed baby Hayden.

The Australian great has had little time to work on her golf game and is not predicting miracles when she tees off at Millbrook, but does not expect that to lessen her enjoyment of the week.

"I’m looking forward to it," she told the Otago Daily Times.

"It’s nice to be out here. It’s a beautiful course, and a stunning place to play golf, and I’m very lucky to be part of it.

"We love Queenstown. It’s a unique tournament, combining the amateurs with the pros, and as amateurs we are so lucky to be here when it’s in pristine condition.

"We’ll go out there and try not to make too much of a fool of ourselves."

Barty is no stranger to the spotlight but is not convinced her top-level tennis career has prepared her for what lies ahead at the Open.

"I prepared my whole life to be in that environment on the tennis court.

"Golf ... that’s not a normal environment for me. I’ll be just like anyone else - I’ll be nervous.

"Hopefully, I’ll get that first one down the middle-ish, and then I’ll be off and away."

She had time to work on her serve and volley in her younger days but there was less opportunity to refine her putting, Barty said.

"I think the short game is what separates the best from the rest. You need to practise that and refine that, and to be honest I don’t have the time.

"I come out here, I get creative, I try to have some fun with it."

NZ Open

The facts

Where: Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown.

What: Four rounds, starting today.

Format: Up to 156 amateurs and 156 professionals play alongside each other. Professionals compete for NZ Open title, while pairings play best-ball format for the pro-am championship.

Cut: Top 60 plus ties (professionals), top 40 (pro-am).

Sanctioning: PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour, in partnership with Japan Tour.

Purse: $2 million.

Defending champion: Brendan Jones (Australia).