February's New Zealand women's golfing open in Christchurch is already setting up to be the best yet.
World No 1 amateur Lydia Ko will headline a field featuring the tournament's four previous winners, including Englishwoman Laura Davies.
Davies won the tournament at Pegasus in 2010 and will be joined - at its new Clearwater home -by last year's winner Lindsey Wright, 2011 champion Kristie Smith and the inaugural victor, Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera.
Davies has won 82 professional tournaments, including 20 on the LPGA, and has been a major drawcard for galleries.
But the fan favourite for the February 8-10, 54-hole tournament will be 15-year-old Ko.
Ko debuted at the tournament as a 12-year-old in 2010 at its old Pegasus home, but recently played Clearwater for the first time at the New Zealand Open men's tournament pro-am.
She reeled off eight birdies in her seven-under 65 and clearly enjoys the course.
"It was from the ladies' yellow tees, so it was playing much easier," she said.
"[But] I like the course. It will be pretty challenging on the back nine when the wind gets up because there is a lot of water. I've played well at Pegasus in the past and I think Clearwater will be a great host for the event," Ko said.
As an amateur, Ko isn't allowed to play for any of the $315,000 purse, but can take inspiration from the men's tournament where Australian Jake Higginbottom won last month.
New Zealand Golf is hopeful of attracting other top names as the tournament is scheduled between the Australian Ladies' Masters and the Australian Women's Open.
Organisers New Zealand Golf and Tuohy and Associates said the lineup of the "world-class field" was a great boost for the tournament and it had gone from strength to strength since 2009.
New Zealand Golf boss Dean Murphy was delighted that Ko would compete.
"I expect very large crowds each day to watch our very own golfing superstar Lydia Ko take on the world's best."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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