The Kiwi golfing phenomenon is off the world circuit to once again help women back home connect with the game she loves, writes Laura McGoldrick.

Forty-five hours a week. More when there's no school. More when you turn pro. And even more practice when you are the No1 women's golfer in the world. That was, and still is, the life of Kiwi golfing rockstar Lydia Ko, who for the second year in a row has got behind award-winning New Zealand Golf initiative "She Loves Golf".

And boy, does Ko love golf. She's the perfect ambassador.

So what is She Loves Golf?

"Well, the whole thing about She Loves Golf is just getting people into the game, no matter whether you are already an athlete or you play golf or you don't even know about the sport."


In that pursuit, November will once again see clubs and driving ranges around the country running dedicated golfing events for women, as well as She Loves Golf pop-ups in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Whangarei.

After the 19-year-old world No 1 told the Herald about her training schedule, she suggested how your average Kiwi female should start out.

"It depends on how much time you have. To me, I would recommend going out to the driving range a little first. Say once a week?

"It's easier to just hit it off the tee - even though it's not what we all do - that's a good way to start. Go to the driving range and have a hit a few times, and then go out and play some golf!"

Golf can be a hard game. That goes for the pros, too, and Ko is the first to admit that.

"It's such a strange game. You can shoot 80 one day and the next day shoot 67 and that even happens with tour players, too. But at the end of the day you can't get caught up in that one shot or that one round. I guess we all do that because we love the game and we are all trying to play the best we can and shoot a good score, but even if that's not the case there is a great beauty about this game.

"The challenge - I think that is really cool about it - it's more about how much you love that game rather than being so results-related. It's the same whether you are a tour player or whether you play 18 holes here and there. You can't get caught up in the results all the time."

Just enjoy it, and be out there and want to get better - that way you even enjoy the challenge of it.


But being the pro that she is, Ko has learned to simplify things for herself on the course.

"At the end of the day it needs to be fun. I like to keep my practice fun, to listen to music, do little drills, play little games - that way you can get more engaged rather than trying to think about it all the time and think about the little things.

"In the off-season, I get to do these different things - go and watch concerts or go to comedy shows - that's how I get engaged in things and that's why I have a good balance rather than putting my head in golf all the time ... I like to play a little bit of ping pong even though I'm not very good at it!

"Even though you are trying to focus it's always good to have that on and off button, that's important when you are on the course too. Just enjoy it, and be out there and want to get better - that way you even enjoy the challenge of it. The most important thing is fun and I say if it's not fun, it's not worth it."

Ko has some incredible female competition - Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn to name a few. With more women turning pro and heading to the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), these young women are constantly raising the bar.

"Our Lydia" is partly responsible for the growth in the game, especially, obviously, here in New Zealand. Not living here it's hard for her see that.

"Well, I don't get to go home much and when I do go home it's for the New Zealand Open. During that week [it's great] to see a lot of kids out there - especially little girls - wanting to play this game for a long time and to do what I do. It's really cool if I have had an effect on them wanting them to play the game even more. It's something that I love to do and I love to spend time with them."

Never has the LPGA looked this good.

"I think the talent level is incredibly high and even comparing last year with this year, the total under par score I think for the majority of the events is lower. It's not because the conditions are easier, it's because everyone is improving. I think sometimes people underestimate the level of golf that the women play; I think it's incredible and it's been really cool for me to play alongside them."

Ko is a Kiwi through and through and wants to see more women playing the game in New Zealand, which is why, despite her crazy, busy schedule, she still wanted to support She Loves Golf.

"It's a family game - you can play when you are 2, 3 maybe with a little spoon, until you are in your 70s and 80s.

"It's a great way to spend time with your family and be outside doing things rather than just being on the couch watching TV."