Year-ender: Here we Ko again for NZ golf scene

21:01, Dec 23 2013
Lydia Ko
SWEET SUCCESS: New Zealand's Lydia Ko kisses her trophy Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters tournament in Taiwan. She also pocketed $180,000.

Golf in New Zealand this year has again been dominated by one player, a pint sized pro with the ability, temperament and ambition to be the best in the world.

Lydia Ko has been brilliant again.

She got to as high as the No 4 ranking in the world; she won three professional tournaments and she finally turned professional.

Ko, 15 at the time, won the New Zealand Open by one shot in Christchurch in February. Her young face adorned all the promotional material and her gallery was 10 times the size of anyone else in the field.

She shrugged that pressure off, shot a final round 68 to beat American Amelia Lewis by one shot.

In August she returned to the Canadian Open to defend her title, but on a new course.

She did it again, cool as you like. Ko shot a final round, tournament-low, six-under 64 to win by a whopping five shots.

In October, she finally answered the question over when she was going to turn professional, by doing it with a choreographed YouTube clip with All Black Israel Dagg.

There were immediate questions over whether or not the now 16-year-old would continue to play as well, once she turned professional.

She didn't set the world alight with her first start as a professional, finishing in a tie for 21st at the LPGA season-ending Titleholders' Championship but there was plenty to like.

Then, in her second start as a pro, she won again.

Ko beat the rest of the field by three shots in the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan earlier this month to grab her first winner's cheque.

Ko's stock continues to rise and expect 2014 to be a monumental year for the North Harbour teenager who now has a waiver to play on the LPGA.

While Ko won the New Zealand Women's Open, there was no New Zealand Men's Open this year.

There was, however, plenty of news about the tournament.

It will no longer be a "regular" 72-hole tournament, but with a view to re-invigorate the tournament, organisers have opted to follow the New Zealand PGA model and make the next year's event a Pro-Am.

It will be played on two courses, The Hills and Millbrook near Queenstown.

There is also plenty of work being done behind the scenes as the NZPGA and New Zealand Golf investigate the option of a merger of their organisations.

New Zealand again have players in the world's toughest tour, the PGA, after Tim Wilkinson and Danny Lee both regained their cards after strong seasons on the Web.Com tour while Steve Alker narrowly missed out.

Michael Hendry will end the year as the country's top ranked male professional. He broke into the top 200, but spent Christmas at 213. Mark Brown enjoyed a handy pre-Christmas stint in Australia to move up to 307 ahead of Wilkinson, (318), Lee (357), Michael Campbell (375), Alker (397), Gareth Paddison (413) and David Smail (489).

Other highlights:-

- Grant Moorhead (Manawatu Open), Fraser Wilkin (Taranaki Open), Michael Hendry (Muriwai Open), Josh Geary (Tauranga Open) and James Hamilton (Harewood Open) all had wins on the Charles Tour.

- Manawatu-Wanganui made up for last year's interprovincial loss to Bay of Plenty by beating them 4.5-.5 in the national final at the North Shore Golf Club. Manawatu-Wanganui were a roll of the ball away being knocked out in pool play, but survived a missed 10-footer to sneak into the semis then go on to win.

- Auckland won their third straight interprovincial women's title, at home at Muriwai. Auckland were unbeaten through six pool games, won their semifinal against Hawke's Bay 4.5-.5 then slammed Bay of Plenty 5-0 in the final.

- Northland's Kadin Neho beat Tasman's Ryan Chisnall 3/2 in the final to win the national men's amateur championships.

- Wellington's Julianne Alvarez beat Waikato's Hanna Seifert 7/6 in the women's amateur final.


Fairfax Media