Lydia Ko has confirmed she will again play the New Zealand’s Women’s Open which will be held in Christchurch next month.
Despite her busy —and much lore lucrative — schedule on the LPGA Tour she has again made time to return home.
The NZ Open, sponsored by ISPS Handa, will be staged over three rounds at Clearwater Golf Club from February 12-14.
It’s a tournament Ko is very familiar with. She was aged 12 when she first played it in 2010, finishing an amazing seventh.
Since then she has included wins in 2013 and last year at ages of 15 and 17. She was second in 2014 when not at her best health-wise. In total Ko has played the tournament six times.
New Zealand Golf chief executive Dean Murphy said Ko’s loyalty to New Zealand had to be admired.
“Lydia continues to be a great ambassador for the game of golf and we are so pleased she will return home to New Zealand in the New Year,’’ Murphy said.
“The reality is, this is a very difficult tournament for Lydia to fit into her schedule and the fact she will compete is a measure of how much she values playing at home.
“Lydia continues to keep a very close relationship with New Zealand Golf and I’m sure the golfing fans of New Zealand will look forward to seeing her play as world number one in our own backyard.”
The New Zealand Open is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour (LET) and Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour (ALPG). It carries minimum prizemoney of euro 200,000 ($NZ323,000).
Last year was another golden one for Ko. She won five times on the LPGA Tour, becoming the youngest to reach 10 wins on the tour, rising to number one in the world and becoming the youngest woman to win a major championship. To finish the year in style, Ko was crowned the LPGA 2015 player of the year and the Race to the CME Globe champion, both for the second year running.
Ko said she was very much looking forward to getting home.
"I'm excited to go back to Clearwater where I have made so many great memories,’’ Ko said in a press release.
"The New Zealand golfing public have always been such great supporters of me and it will be exciting to play in front of my home fans.
“I'm also really looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home."
Midori Miyazaki, of title sponsor ISPS Handa, is pleased to have Ko confirmed to defend her title.
“'ISPS Handa is looking forward to another year of partnership with the New Zealand Golf, ALPG Tour and the Ladies European Tour,’’ Miyazaki said.
"My chairman, Dr Handa, is delighted that Lydia is playing in this tournament, which promises to bring real excitement to this year's event and to reach out to many who will see the `power of sport' at its best through Lydia.”
Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel was delighted the tournament was remaining in her city and Ko’s presence was the icing on the cake.
"We’re a city that loves sport and to have a drawcard of the calibre of Lydia Ko playing in the championship is an added bonus,” Dalziel said.
"Christchurch is well known as a great host city and I'm sure people will get along to Clearwater to see a world class field of international female golfers in action."