Golf: Ko preparing to be in spotlight at NZ Open

There is no doubt Lydia Ko will be the most talked about golfer at Clearwater this week. Photo / Getty Images.
There is no doubt Lydia Ko will be the most talked about golfer at Clearwater this week. Photo / Getty Images.

There is no doubt Lydia Ko will be the most talked about golfer at Clearwater this week.

The world No1 amateur, who is world No38 on the pro rankings after playing only 11 professional events, will once again be the leading New Zealand hope in a world-class field at the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open hosted by Christchurch.

The Pinehurst School student, who recently finished runner-up in her title defence of the NSW Open by two shots to Caroline Hedwall, missed the Australian Masters to be fresh and ready for this week.

The 15-year-old from the Gulf Harbour Country Club knows that she is going to play this week with a weight of local expectation on her performance.

"I do feel a bit of pressure as I know people are expecting a whole lot more from me," said the youngest winner in professional golf history.

"But I have to block it out and concentrate on my game and my game only. It will be quite hard backing up what I achieved in 2012 as it was a great year for me. It's a whole new year and I am going to try and start fresh."

Ko was always the easiest player on the course to spot at Pegasus last year. A massive gallery followed her every shot until the final putt. She faded in the final round from being the third round leader to finish in a share of 17th place.

After playing in major championships last year Ko is much more familiar with big crowds watching her.

"Before, I got really nervous playing in front of big crowds but I'm slowly getting used to it. The New Zealand Open is one of my most important tournaments and I'm always happy to play the Open."

The event has attracted a world-class field including three of the previous four champions.

Australian Lindsey Wright is unable to defend her title after withdrawing with injury.

Also in the field for the championship from February 8-10 at the Clearwater Golf Club are former major champions Anna Nordqvist and Sophie Gustafson (both of Sweden).

World No16 Angela Stanford and Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, are other notable players in a field that will include 32 LPGA tour players. The all-star cast will also include European No1 Carlota Ciganda. It is the strongest field ever assembled for the NZ Women's Open.

Ko is excited by the prospect of becoming the first New Zealander to win the NZ Women's Open.

"It would mean a lot. It's making history within New Zealand and I would be so proud of myself."

The ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open is one of a few tournaments that Ko will play this in New Zealand. After her record-breaking season in 2012, she has two simple goals.

"I want to play as many LPGA tournaments as possible and also remain as the world No1 amateur."

Lydia Ko Fact Box

ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open:

2010 - tied seventh (leading amateur)

2011 - tied fourth (leading amateur)

2012 - tied 17th (runner-up in amateur field)

2012 Record Breaking Year:

1st - Canadian Open, LPGA Tour (first New Zealander and youngest in history)

1st - NSW Open, ALPG and LET Tour (youngest winner in pro history)

1st - Australian Amateur (youngest winner)

1st - US Amateur (first New Zealander to win the event)

Tied 39th - US Open on her major debut (leading amateur)

Tied 17th - British Open (leading amateur)

1st individual at the World Amateur Team's Championship - (World-record in the event that dates back to 1964 and first NZ woman to achieve this).

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 22 Sep 2014 02:45:23 Processing Time: 617ms