By Andrew Whiley
A voice from the south
The 53rd Halberg Awards will take place at the Vector Arena in Auckland on February 18.
I have been in attendance for the past two events and I am again looking forward to attending the next one. Hopefully, as you read this article, you’ll already know the results and we will be toasting Lydia Ko and probably Danny Lee.
I was fortunate to attend in 2014 when Lydia Ko was the 2013 Supreme Award winner and last year, she claimed the High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year for a second year.
So, I will be excited to see if Lydia will win the 2015 Supreme Award again. However, more interestingly, I am anxious to see if golf can pull off the double with Danny being nominated for the High Performance Sport New Zealand Sportsman of the Year against a world class line-up including Dan Carter, Scott Dixon, Dexter Dunn and Kane Williamson amongst others.
Golf will be the winner regardless of the outcome. For many years, golf didn’t have a single person nominated for the awards.
I believe that Danny Lee is a serious contender for the Sportsman of the Year award. Why, you may ask?
That’s because last July, Danny was seen as the second hottest player on the planet, having recently celebrated his win at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia. This was the first PGA Tour event won by a Kiwi since Michael Campbell had won the US Open in 2005.
In his first 26 events, Danny had a best finish, tied for third, and had amassed only 683 Fedex (order of merit) points. Then he wins and collects 500 points and proceeds to pick up another 1633 points in his next 10 events (totalling 2133).
His performance at the Tour Championship, where he finished second, was outstanding and outside of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, he was the best player on the PGA Tour last year from July 1 through to the end of September.
This proved that Danny’s win wasn’t a fluke and it was great to see him perform at the President’s Cup in South Korea, albeit narrowly losing to Dustin Johnson. I would anticipate him having a strong year in 2016.
Has Danny done enough to win the Sportsman of the Year award? I would like to think so, but there were some outstanding results especially from Dan Carter and Scott Dixon.
So what about Lydia? I believe her results in 2015 were also outstanding and I don’t think we appreciate what a superstar she has become on the golfing stage.
To win a major at the age of 18 is almost unbelievable. To also win five times on the LPGA tour and be the world’s number one deserves her to be crowned New Zealand’s Supreme Award winner. And I sincerely believe that this is a greater achievement than the All Blacks winning the World Cup.
In my opinion, the story that really hasn’t been highlighted is the achievement of winning a major at the age of 18. The only person to better this achievement was Tom Morris junior, who at the age of 17, won the 1868 British Open. However, to my way of thinking, this doesn’t count as he beat only 11 other golfers, all of whom were from Scotland, meaning that it wasn’t really an “open” event at all.
In my humble opinion, I believe that Lydia is going to dominate the ladies’ game over the next five years as she gets comfortable with the responsibilities of being the world’s number one player, and as she also gains even more confidence with her ability to stare down her rivals on the golf courses around the world. Every golfer in the South Island should try and make the effort to attend the NZ Women’s Open this year, just to watch her play.
In 10 months time, I predict we will see them both being recognised at the Halberg Awards again in February 2017. Then to follow, we will be celebrating both Lydia Ko and Danny Lee and their results on the global golfing stage. Mark my words.