Brand new course for LPGA Tour event in Auckland
When the world’s richest golf circuit for women comes to New Zealand for the first time it will be held at a golf course just a year old.
The LPGA (Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association) Tour last month announced that the New Zealand Women’s Open would be added to it’s schedule for 2017 and that it would be held in Auckland at Windross Farm.
That’s a name many New Zealand golfers will not be familiar with. And that’s because the golf course was only opened on September 1.
Windross Farm is what was known as the Manukau Golf Club which used to be based at Takanini in south Auckland.
But the golf course land at Takanini was purchased by a housing developer for $40 million and a new golf course was built a few minutes down the road at Ardmore.
The New Zealand Women’s Open has been held in Christchurch in recent years.
The latest event, held at Clearwater in February, carried total prizemoney of 200,000 euros, or about $300,000 in our money.
Next year’s event, to be held from September 28-October 1, will have a purse of $US1.3 million. That’s $1.8 million in our money.
In other words this will be the biggest golf event for New Zealand since Tiger Woods turned up for the men’s New Zealand Open at Paraparaumu Beach, north of Wellington, in 2002.
Tiger could only finish fifth with victory going to the rotund Australian figure of Craig Parry.
New Zealand’s interest in next year’s women’s national open will centre of our own Lydia Ko.
She has a fair-to-middling record in the New Zealand Open. For example in 2010 she could only finish seventh. Some of you may point out that she was only aged 12 at the time. Fair point.
More recently, in 2014, she only finished second. Some of you may point out that she had come down with a bug during the tournament and could have been forgiven for withdrawing. Fair point.
More seriously, Lydia has played our national open for the last seven years, never missed the cut and has won three times in the last four years. An amazing record.
But next year the opposition will be 10 times stronger and distraction will be a bigger obstacle than anything else as she will be the tournament’s figurehead.
Ko headed the announcement of next year’s tournament.
From Florida in the United States she said: “I am so excited with this announcement to bring the LPGA to my hometown in Auckland.
“I am honoured to be the first player to sign up to play. It is going to be amazing for me and my family to host my LPGA friends in my country. I want to see golf grow in New Zealand and more women playing the game, so this news today is fantastic.”
The LPGA has committed to the tournament for at least three years.
LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said: “We’re excited to extend our global reach... and enable our tour players and global television viewers to experience the beauty of New Zealand.”
The tournament will be sponsored by McKayson, a newly launched sports apparel brand.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff joined the announcement. He said: “The tournament allows us to work with government to showcase Auckland to wider high-value tourism markets like those in China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“The media exposure alone in the high value markets will reach millions of people. The coverage we get from this will help grow golfing tourism to the benefit of Auckland.”
New Zealand Golf chief executive Dean Murphy said: “The LPGA international platform will allow Auckland and New Zealand a unique opportunity to promote ourselves to a world-wide audience in over 150 countries with over eight hours of television coverage.
“We have a chance to show off our great golf courses in this country to a massive global audience and build on the investment in golf infrastructure and tourism.
“Bringing the major women’s golf tour to this country will provide an unprecedented opportunity for all golfers and sports fans to watch some of the game’s best players in action, as well as excite young kids to take up the sport. And it gives us a chance for Lydia to play in an LPGA event here at home.