This week's New Zealand Women's Open was meant to be all about Lydia Ko.

Nobody told Stacey Tate though as the Sydney-based Kiwi shot an impressive four-under 68 to hold a share of the first-round lead, alongside Korea's Seon Woo Bae, at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch today.

Ko certainly isn't out of the mix as she fired a three-under 69 in her first round to be in a share of third with four others, only one stroke behind the leaders, but it was Tate who was the talk of the course during the afternoon.

The 29-year-old, who began her round at the 10th tee, shot five straight birdies on her back nine as he flew up the leaderboard before bogeys on her final two holes dropped her back down to earth.


"I was pretty nervous to get out there,'' Tate said. "It's always quite nerve-racking to come to your national open and want to do well.

"Once I got in to the round it just started to flow.''

Tate is in the middle of making a return to competitive golf after taking a few years away from the game as she found it challenging on the second-tier circuit in the US after she finished her study at the University of Memphis in 2008.

Tate, who works at Roseville Golf club in North Sydney, was introduced as an Australian this afternoon before a member of the gallery set the record straight that she was a New Zealander.

"My mum yelled out from the sidelines, so good on mum,'' Tate said.

Bae's good form shouldn't come as a complete surprise given she owns the course record at Clearwater courtesy of a scintillating eight-under 64, which she carded in the second round of last year's Open. She eventually went on to finish fourth in 2013, three strokes back from Ko.

Bae, the world No 242, was the clubhouse leader for much of the day before Tate joined her.

"I didn't play too good but I putted very well to get a good score,'' Bae said after her round.

"On the first nine I was not hitting the ball so good. The course was very soft. It was hard in that condition. I made mistakes.''

But, justifiably so, Christchurch is fast becoming one of the 20-year-old's favourite destinations on tour.

"I love Clearwater. It is the same sort of course as we have in Korea. I like this design and it is very beautiful. I feel comfortable playing here. I am very happy to be course record holder.''

Ko, who made a slow start to her title defence this morning, picked up five shots on her back nine after she fell to two over the card halfway through her first round after beginning on the 10th tee.

"The back nine was definitely the highlight, especially chipping in on the last hole,'' Ko said. ``I didn't give myself many opportunities on my front nine and I wasn't hitting it well, but then I got warmed up.''

The par-three ninth hole, Ko's last for her round, provided her brightest moment of the day.

After leaving her tee shot short of the green, she chipped in, much to the delight of an enthusiastic gallery, who followed the world No 4 throughout her round.

Northland's Caroline Bon was the next best Kiwi in the field in a share of 16th at one under.