Amateur Lydia Ko set to tee off with the men at the New Zealand PGA Championship in Queenstown
A tournament where the highest ranked player is No. 82 in the world doesn’t tend to register on the international golf radar.
But Lydia Ko, a 15-year-old amateur, has done something Brendan Jones (No. 82 in the Official World Golf Rankings) and three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin couldn’t. She is shining a spotlight upon the New Zealand PGA Championship in Queenstown. Ko won’t exactly be teeing it up against Irwin, Jones and the 130 other professionals in the tournament, which runs Feb. 28-March 3 at The Hills course in Queenstown. This is no attempt to be the next Michelle Wie.
She will be playing as one of the celebrities in the pro-am portion of the tournament. The native Kiwi has gained international acclaim in a short time, becoming one of the hottest names in women’s golf. Ko, ranked No. 25 in the world, has started this year in high gear, winning the New Zealand Women’s Open and finishing third in the Australian Women’s Open, both against top LPGA Tour competition sometimes twice her age. She’s already won an LPGA Tour event, although has said repeatedly in interviews that she does not plan to turn pro anytime soon.
She will be paired with one of the 66 professionals who make the cut over the final two rounds. She will play a two-ball, best-ball format, making her group the odds-on favorite for the pro-am championship.
I can’t wait to see her play live. I’ll be making my first trip to New Zealand. I’m hoping she puts on another great show, so I can tell one of those “I was there” stories when she becomes a star. Walking the Hills, surrounded by the Remarkables Mountains, should be quite a spellbinding experience as well. It will be my first look at the great golf in this fascinating country, followed later by rounds on both the north and south islands.
Tournament Director Michael Glading said a large gallery will likely follow Ko’s every move. Several weeks ago, The Golf Channel made an unprecedented move to bump a tape-delay broadcast of the Australian Women’s Open to live coverage with Ko contending.
“Lydia is truly an inspiration to all New Zealanders,” Glading said.
For more information on the tournament, visit www.pgachampionship.co.nz.