Ko lights way to Auckland for historic LPGA tournament


Ko lights way to Auckland for historic LPGA tournament

Denise Langdon, PaR nz Golfing Holidays

Our Lyds’ is making more headlines as she spearheads the announcement that New Zealand will host its first LPGA tournament, the 2017 New Zealand Women’s Open. Ko has already entered the event, to be held at Windross Farm Golf Course in Auckland on September 28 to October 1. Other top women players are expected to follow suit, competing for a share of the US$1.3 million purse. 

The LPGA, New Zealand Golf, NZ Golf promoter The Clubhouse (NZ) Limited, and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) are collaborating to support the event’s success. McKayson, a Seoul-based company with a developing apparel and accessories sports brand, is the major sponsor for the 2017 championship. 

Ko was recently ‘beamed’ in from Florida where the LPGA made the announcement after its final 2016 season tournament. The world number-one made it clear that she is looking forward to playing in her home city while defending her 2016 NZ title, as well as welcoming many LPGA friends to her country. 

The LPGA has widened its horizons since it was formed in 1950. American Babe Zaharias dominated early on, winning eight of the 15 tournaments held that first year and earning total prize money of US$14,800. 

The 2016 LPGA season comprised 35 tournaments worldwide including 18 in the US. Prize pools for each event ranged from US$1 million, for the Citibank Amex Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico, to US$4.5 million, for the prestigious US Open in California. 

From New Zealand’s perspective, the newly-sanctioned Women’s Open is an opportunity to convert strong international interest into wider economic benefits. The event is expected to deliver up to 13,000 visitors and generate up to NZ$1.3 million a year of new money for Auckland’s economy, with additional value from significant international media exposure. 

The 2017 New Zealand Women’s Open will also be a forerunner to the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, to be held at Royal Wellington on October 23-27. 

New Zealand has never hosted a LPGA or PGA Tour event, despite producing many outstanding professional golfers and golf courses. 

Back in the December issue of this magazine, I reported on some growing golf and tourism trends in this country. New Zealand Golf CEO Dean Murphy also remarked on this at the launch, commenting that inbound golf tourism brought in $329 million to New Zealand in the year ended August 2016 – a 23% increase over the previous year. 

“The LPGA international platform will allow Auckland and New Zealand a unique opportunity to promote ourselves to a worldwide audience in over 150 countries with over eight hours of television coverage,” he said. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was also enthusiastic about the four-day event: “This will be a great showcase for Auckland, taking our city to millions of people in high-value tourism markets in China, Australia, the US and UK. 

“Golf is a huge passion across Asia, the US and Australia, and golfers are a priority special-interest travel market segment for Auckland.” 

The Windross Farm Golf Club, near Ardmore in southern Auckland, was only recently opened to members and members’ guests. It resulted from the proceeds of a ‘buyout’ and residential development of former Manukau Golf Course land.  

Brett Thomson from RBT Design designed the course with Phil Tataurangi as consultant. It is promoted as a links course over former farmland, and has a traditional 18-hole format in that there are four par-three holes and four par-five holes – two of each on both nines. 

Water, in many forms, is a striking feature, with four large man-made lakes interlaced with numerous burns, or streams. The course presents undulating greens, 38 bunkers, few trees, and both impressive and imposing wetland areas. Early reports are that prevailing winds will make Windross Farm a tough proposition for the 2017 NZ Women’s Open field. 

It is bound to be an exciting tournament and a great moment for golf in New Zealand. It is also a chance to show off the growing number of our golf courses attracting world acclaim.  

So the 2016 New Zealand golf year finishes with Lydia Ko remaining the world number one female player, a historic LPGA tournament set for 2017 along with New Zealand hosting the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

What could be better?