By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf
Over the past few weeks I have been delighted with the reaction from golf fans regarding the news that Lydia Ko will return to New Zealand to play in February.
After another fantastic year of success for golf’s golden girl, Lydia will be the headline act at the stunning Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch where she will defend her ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open title.
The fact that Lydia has committed to return home says a great deal about the character of this inspirational young women and it is great to see this has not gone unnoticed by the national media and golf fans.
The reality is, the New Zealand event is a very difficult tournament for Lydia to fit into her schedule. The LPGA has a flying start to the year with a run of six tournaments in quick succession. From a player welfare and burnout perspective it’s not possible for players at the elite end of the game to play all these events in a row. Evaluating which events to play, and which ones to miss and sit out, therefore becomes a crucial decision. The fact Lydia has chosen to compete in New Zealand in what would be a valuable rest week for her from the LPGA schedule is a measure of how much she values playing at home.
People often ask me why we simply can’t schedule the New Zealand event at a time that doesn’t clash with LPGA events and when players can come to this part of the world without having to worry about missing other events.
The reality is the world of professional golf events is very complex and also very cluttered. In order to attract a world class field, we need to sanction our event as part of an international professional tour and for obvious reasons, these tour bodies schedule their events in logical sequences in various parts of the world.
With that in mind, our event needs to be scheduled at a time that suits our sanction partners (the Australasian Ladies Professional Tour and the Ladies European Tour). These schedules are then put together considering all the other tours in the world, including the LPGA.
The upshot of all of this is we get very few date options (often just one or two) and we need to be as smart as we can with the very limited options available to us.
The other question I am often asked is whether it is hard to get Lydia home to play in New Zealand. My answer to this question is always the same. It is never hard to convince Lydia to come home. She loves returning to New Zealand and has said on numerous occasions how much she loves playing in front of her home fans.
The only difficult bit is making it work for her schedule and this is not easy. To make it work we need to be very patient and ensure we do everything we can at our end to make it easy for her.
Lydia continues to keep a very close relationship with New Zealand Golf and this allows us to work with her in a very respectful and elegant manner and I’m sure this is a major contributing factor to securing her attendance at this event.
With Lydia winning five times on the LPGA Tour, becoming the youngest to reach 10 wins, rising to number one in the world and becoming the youngest woman to win a major championship, I hope all golf fans will come out to watch her play at Clearwater.
It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to see her in our own backyard and we are so pleased she is making the effort to come home to New Zealand. Thank you Lydia.
The ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open Championship will be played at the Clearwater Golf Club, Christchurch from February 12-14. The Ladies European Tour (LET) and Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) co-sanctioned event will be played as a 54 hole championship with a pro-am tournament scheduled for Thursday, February 11. Full details are at www.nzwomensopen.co.nz