Swedish major champion Anna Nordqvist said that coming to New Zealand has always been on her bucket list.
Coming new places always excites the Swede and she can’t wait to tee it up in the world-class field at the Clearwater Golf Club in the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch from February 8 – 10.
“I have never been to New Zealand before but it is one of those places that I always wanted to go to,” said the down-to-earth 25-year-old.
“I have heard the nature is quite spectacular and I am hoping to have time to explore some of the country while I’m there. I have a good friend that is from Christchurch so I have heard so much good about the area and looking at pictures online. I can’t wait to get there.”
Nordqvist is one of two major champions in the field – alongside fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson.
The championship has attracted an all-star cast including the previous four champions of the event and World No.1 amateur Lydia Ko.
World No.16 Angela Stanford and Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods, are other notable players in a field that will include 32 LPGA Tour Players. Also teeing it up is European No. 1 Carlota Ciganda. It is the strongest field ever assembled for the NZ Women’s Open.
Nordqvist, who lives in Orlando Florida, will begin among the favourites after enjoying a phenomenal start to her professional career.
She claimed her first professional win when she won the LPGA Championship in 2009 in Maryland only a year after she turned pro at the age of 22.
Her victory led to her selection as a captain's pick for the 2009 Solheim Cup and later that year she capped off her dream debut season on the LPGA Tour by winning the Tour Championship.
She was named Rookie of the Year on the LET and finished runner-up to Jiyai Shin for LPGA Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. Nordqvist has gone onto win five times around the world and has already achieved more that most players do in their entire career.
Her dream year in 2009 could easily not have happened. Nordqvist remembers her auspicious start well.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into 2009,” she said.
“I missed my full LPGA card by one shot and didn’t even know what I was going to get to play or not. My dream was always to play with the best players in the world on the LPGA Tour so I never gave up that dream going into 2009.
“Then I won European Qualifying School in the beginning of January 2009 and it felt great to know I had a place to play.
“Then winning on LPGA in my fifth LPGA Tour start pretty much changed everything and I secured my card on the LPGA for the rest of the year. I was close to winning LPGA rookie of the year with two LPGA wins that year but I felt really fortunate to win the LET rookie of the year and have such a great start to my career.”
The two-time Solheim Cup rep, who finished 19th on the LPGA money list in 2012, is looking for a fast start to the season to secure her place in the 2013 team.
“I played really solid and consistent last year with many top-10 finishes. My putting was disappointing for the most part last year so I never felt like I got anything back.
“It is a Solheim Cup year so obviously that is on my mind. I am happy I get the opportunity to play my first professional tournament in Sweden now that we finally have a Ladies European Tournament in Sweden again. My main focus is on the LPGA Tour where my goal is to get my 3rd win out there.”
Nordqvist has special memories of the Solheim Cup – the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup.
“The Solheim Cup is like the experience of your life! There is nothing like it and the atmosphere gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. There are a lot of Europeans that are playing good at the moment and I look forward to having a chance of making the team and defending the cup on US soil this year.”
The Swede has taken her rise in stride and managed to stay grounded through all of her success.
“As far as me as a person, nothing has changed. I am still the same Anna even though I feel like I have matured a lot these last couple of years and obviously the major win changed my life in the way that I got my full LPGA card and didn’t have to worry about where to play for the next couple of years.”
For Nordqvist being recognized as a good person is just as important as performing well.
“My goal is to be a good role model and if people recognize me for the way I play, act and handle myself I think that is great. It has always been important for me to be myself and I never feel like I have to try to be someone else on the course, so I don’t feel any pressure in the regards of being recognized more.
“I always keep learning, wanting to get better, learn from my experiences and keep working hard towards my goals. It is very competitive out on LET and LPGA Tour so it is pushing me to get better.
“I am a competitive person by birth so of course winning and striving to get better has always been what has fired me up.”
Tickets are available at the gate.