|As chairman of the Ladies European Tour, Australian professional Karen Lunn knows the importance of the support of Dr Haruhisa Handa towards the New Zealand Women’s Open. The Japanese philanthropist’s sponsorship of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch has maintained its co-sanction status on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the Australian Professional Ladies Golf (ALPG) Tours.|
|Karen Lunn at the ALPG's Royal Canberra Ladies Classic in January
As chairman of the Ladies European Tour, Australian professional Karen Lunn knows the importance of the support of Dr Haruhisa Handa towards the New Zealand Women’s Open. The Japanese philanthropist’s sponsorship of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch has maintained its co-sanction status on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the Australian Professional Ladies Golf (ALPG) Tours.
Lunn, a nine time winner on the Ladies Europe Tour as far back as the 1986 Borlange Open and as recently as the 2010 Portugal Open, has been chairman for the past seven years.
She has been around long enough to know the value of the best European talent coming back to these shores.
“It is massive for New Zealand Golf and for women’s golf in the Australasian region,” said the 45-year-old from Sydney who now lives in England.
“We are very thankful for the support of Dr Handa. With a natural disaster like Christchurch suffered it is amazing that the tournament is still going ahead at all but the fact that it has kept the co-sanction status is a great achievement. We have a great swing of tournaments Down Under and that has to continue for the future of the game.
“It is important to have tournaments in this part of the world of this calibre and the higher standard of the European Players makes it a truly international event.
It is important for the people of Christchurch because it gives them something to look forward and hopefully something to lift the morale.
“It is also really important for the continued development of women’s golf in New Zealand and it gives something for the best golfers there something to aspire to. It is really hard to cut your teeth in professional golf and the more events we can expose young and upcoming talent to the better.”
Lunn is talking about the likes of New Zealand’s young prodigy Lydia Ko, who she played with in the first two rounds of the NSW Open, and to say the least was impressed by her ability.
“She is phenomenal,” said Lunn of the 14-year-old superstar who was the youngest golfer in history to win a professional event.
“I haven’t seen anyone her age that is able to deal with pressure of playing in front of big crowds with such ease. She doesn’t seem fazed at all. There is no weakness in her game. She is solid off the tee and her short game is really, really good too.
“It goes without saying that she has a massive future in the game and she will only get better in the next few years. It will be exciting to see her develop.”
Lunn is excited about her own game. She had a solid season on the LET in 2011 where played 22 events with four Top-10 finishes to place 31st on the money-list with almost 70,000 Euros.
She has found some form of her own lately – winning the Royal Canberra Ladies Classic – and expects to be in contention at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club this week on Sunday afternoon after she missed the cut in 2011.
“I feel like I am hitting it really well and it’s just a matter of riding the wave. It’s a beautiful layout and I am looking forward to giving it another crack very soon. I was blown away in the second round last year and I feel like I have unfinished business there.
“The standard of this tournament will be tough. There is anyone of 50 golfers who will be able to win this tournament so that makes it exciting.
Lunn thinks it will be a surreal feeling returning to Christchurch. She played a pro-am at Pegasus on the Monday and in the city the day before the February 22 earthquake in 2012.
“We were walking around Christchurch and it was hard to watch really from back home. Normally when you see natural disasters you are so removed from it all but this one we were there the day before walking the streets and we had a lot of friends there and people we had met. It was heartbreaking to watch that footage on the television. We felt really fortunate to have flown out but our hearts went out to the people there. A lot of the girls have talked about it and we want to support this event because of what the people of Christchurch have been through.”
She is heading into the twilight of her career but at 45 years don’t expect Lunn to hang up her clubs anytime soon.
“I am still enjoying playing and as long I am competitive I will keep playing. I have loved the wins of late. It’s why I play the game and hopefully that will continue for a few years yet.”