|Ko will defend the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open in 2014
New Zealand Golf is pleased to announce the dates for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open as a co-sanctioned event on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) Tours.
The Championship, which holds the largest purse (€200,000 or NZ$334,000) for a women’s sporting event in New Zealand, will remain at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch and will be played as a three round tournament from January 31 to February 2.
Defending champion Lydia Ko, who won the title by one shot this year to become the youngest winner in the history of the LET aged only 15, has confirmed she will return in 2014.
"I will definitely play the New Zealand Open next year at Clearwater," Ko, 16, said after defending her title at the Canadian Open on the LPGA Tour.
"It is the national open and I have great memories from my win there this year. I will be back there for sure. Winning the New Zealand Open meant so much to me and I will try to defend there as well."
It is expected that the World No.1 amateur will face a world-class field for the fifth staging of the championship as it goes from strength to strength in its short history.
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive Dean Murphy said that Lydia’s win was a standout achievement in the national open and the women’s game.
“Lydia delivered a truly great moment in the history of New Zealand sport at Clearwater,” said Murphy.
“With the thousands of people lining the 18th fairway she played superbly to make history and become the first New Zealand woman to win the national open. It was an awesome moment to be there for.
“I think our former President Patsy Hankins summed it up best. She has always presented the NZ Open trophy to the champion but never to a New Zealander. ‘That was worth the wait’ she said at the presentation.
“We are looking forward to another great week at the Clearwater Golf Club and we are sure that all New Zealand golf fans will come out in force to support Lydia as she defends her title.”
Title sponsor, International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS), is an organisation founded by Japanese philanthropist Dr Haruhisa Handa in 2006 to support charitable causes throughout the sporting world. ISPS has fostered partnerships with golf governing bodies worldwide to help develop the game at every level and promote blind and disabled golf.
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami suffered in Japan in 2011, Dr Handa and ISPS have an understanding and empathy for the people of New Zealand after the effects of the earthquakes in Christchurch.
Dr Handa recognised the importance of events such as the New Zealand Women’s Open continuing on the sporting calendar to help rebuild and inspire the community of Christchurch.
All gate receipts generated at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open are dedicated to the Handa Fellowship for International Studies, established by the University of Canterbury and supported by New Zealand Golf and TA Golf.
ISPS Chairman Dr Handa said: “ISPS is delighted to continue its support of this exciting ladies event in New Zealand. At ISPS we believe in the “Power of Sport”, its unique ability to create hope; to breakdown educational and cultural barriers; and to inspire people in a way that very little else does.
“For this reason ISPS is delighted that this event will not only raise the profile of blind and disabled golf; but also raise funds that allow intellectual and cultural exchange between New Zealand and Japan through the Handa Fellowship at the University of Canterbury.”
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said: “The opportunity to host the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Golf Open is extremely positive for the city and something that I am personally very proud of.
“This event attracts leading professionals from around the world and it is a privilege to host the event here again in 2014. The sponsorship from ISPS has ensured the continuation of this event in the Garden City and we are very grateful to Dr Handa for his ongoing support to Christchurch.”
ALPG Executive Director Karen Lunn added: "The Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG Tour) and Ladies European Tour are once again thrilled to have the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open on our 2014 schedule in partnership with New Zealand Golf and Promoters TA Golf NZ.
“We are delighted to be once again heading back to Clearwater Golf Club, and a field of truly world class international players will be anxious to add their name to the NZ Open trophy alongside defending champion Lydia Ko and former champions Laura Davies, Gwladys Nocera, Kristie Smith and Lindsey Wright.
“The event is one of the highlights of the ALPG schedule and last year’s event was even more special when local teenage sensation Lydia Ko added to her impressive list of accomplishments by winning her national open in a thrilling finish.
“With Lydia’s recent successful title defence of her Canadian Women’s Open title, the talented teenager will be looking to defend her NZ Open title in front of family and friends. Her return to home soil will once again attract major global media focus and much interest from golf fans.”
“Our sincere thanks go to Dr. Handa and the team at ISPS Handa for their ongoing support of this event and of Women’s Golf, and we again extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Christchurch City Council and the people of this wonderful city, without whom this event would not be possible."
Event Promoter, Bob Tuohy, Chairman of TA Golf said: “Lydia’s triumph earlier this year and her defence next February will certainly generate national and international interest.
“The European Team’s recent victory in the prestigious Solheim Cup more than illustrates the wealth of young talent emerging on the international scene and the extreme value in securing co-sanction status with the Ladies European Tour and ALPG Tour.
“Next year the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open Championship will be the first official fixture on the women’s World Tour and we expect to attract a sensational field of new and exciting talent from around the world, which will include defending champion, Lydia Ko.
“I would like to especially acknowledge the ongoing support of the players and our key stakeholders ISPS, the Christchurch City Council and the Board of Management at the Clearwater Golf Club who are all integral to the ongoing success of New Zealand’s premier women’s championship.
“TA Golf in partnership with NZ Golf will again deliver an amazing Open at the Clearwater Golf Club from January 31 to February 2, an event not to be missed.”