Lydia Ko to miss Queen Sirikit Cup for NZ
The absence of Lydia Ko has seen the average age of the New Zealand women's golf team rise for this week's Queen Sirikit Cup, but only just.
Ko, 15, is missing from the New Zealand team as she finishes a two-tournament trip to the United States at the LPGA Tour's Lotte Championship in Hawaii, which starts on Thursday (NZT).
It gives the second tier players an opportunity to shine at international level, with New Zealand amateur champion Munchin Keh, 20, from Titirangi, Manor Park's Julianne Alvarez, 16, and North Shore's Lita Guo, 17, all to don the silver fern at the Sunrise Golf and Country Club in Taiwan from tomorrow to Friday.
World No 1 amateur Ko led the New Zealand team to second place last year behind six-time defending champions South Korea, and though any hopes of a repeat performance without her presence are probably misplaced, all three players are determined to make the most of their opportunities.
"All three will have their eyes on the worlds next year in Japan and this provides them with a playing environment similar to that and a great chance to press their claims for selection," said Gregg Thorpe, New Zealand Golf's high performance manager.
Keh and Alvarez have represented New Zealand before, but this is a senior debut for Guo, who won the LawnMaster Classic on the Charles Tour.
"I am enjoying taking my golf to a new level. It is cool to compete internationally to see how good I am," she said.
"We have a good chance of being competitive in this event. Munchin, Julianne and I are all solid players and I think we'll make a good team. We all get on well and I think it is going to be a fun trip."
Alvarez, who secured her breakthrough win in 2012 at the Harewood Open on the Charles Tour, has not been a regular in New Zealand teams but wants to make a statement at international level.
"I have worked really hard for this opportunity for the past two years and to be back representing New Zealand means a lot to me," she said.
"Obviously Lydia has set a new benchmark for all of us to follow. She has been just amazing and we have to perform well in her absence. It is a good challenge for us. I know that every time you play for New Zealand you have to play well because you don't know how many chances you will get."
The Queen Sirikit Cup is an annual contest between 14 nations from the Asia-Pacific region and is officially known as the Amateur Ladies Asia-Pacific Invitational team championship.
New Zealand has won the cup three times - in 1984, 1990 and 1999 - since the championship began in 1979.