Eight New Zealand amateur golfers and two Australian amateur golfers will play the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch from January 31 to February 2 at the Clearwater Golf Club, joining a world class field including the defending champion World No.4 Lydia Ko.
The New Zealand amateurs to book their place in the National Open are Julianne Alvarez, Chantelle Cassidy, Lita Guo, Munchin Keh, Hanna Seifert, Wenyung Keh and Sai Ma. The NZ Maori Champion, which will be contested in January, will join them at Clearwater, located just minutes from Christchurch International Airport.Wellington’s Alvarez earned her place by winning the NZ Amateur Championship and Waikato’s Cassidy qualified through winning the NZ Stroke Play Championship.Munchin Keh, Seifert and Lita Guo all qualified as the next three leading players on the NZ Golf Order of Merit, Wenyung Keh and Sai Ma were offered the remaining two amateur invites by the NZ Women’s Open Championship subcommittee. The two Australian golfers are still to be confirmed but a minimum of 10 golfers will contest the Bessie Fullerton-Smith trophy for leading amateur in the championship.Gregg Thorpe, the New Zealand High Performance Manager, believed that the tournament provides the country’s leading amateurs a rare opportunity to play in a professional event.“The chance to play alongside their heroes, contesting for the New Zealand Open trophy, is an opportunity few players get,” he said. “For these young women it’s the time to measure themselves against an international field of professionals and to see where they sit along their respective development pathways. But most importantly is a time to be inspired by being a part of such an event and participating at this level. For some it will clarify their goals and harden their resolve to reach them.” There will be an additional six places available at the Final Qualifying event on Tuesday January 28 at the Russley Golf Club.The teenage superstar Lydia Ko will once again be the main draw card for the event which will be staged at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch from January 31 to February 2.The World No.1 amateur made the tournament a memorable one in 2013. She defeated a world-class field, which included major champions, and three of the previous winners of the event, to become the youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history aged 15 years, nine months and 17 days. It was a special moment for New Zealand Golf. The player everyone had come to see had ensured they went home on Sunday evening smiling.
This year, Ko will be joined by Solheim Cup star Charley Hull from England making her first trip to New Zealand and several other Ladies European Tour players.
They include the 2010 tournament champion Laura Davies from England and Frenchwoman Gwladys Nocera who won the title on the Australian ALPG Tour in 2009, the year before it joined the Ladies European Tour schedule. Kristie Smith and Lindsey Wright won the event in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
This year will also see LET Life Members Sophie Gustafson and Trish Johnson tee it up in NZ along with Melissa Reid, Becky Brewerton, Christel Boeljon and Carly Booth among other internationally acclaimed names.
Among the 2014 LET rookies making their pro debuts will be Scotland’s Sally Watson, Nobuhle Dlamini of Swaziland, Sweden’s Josephine Janson and Tessa Teachman of the United States.
The ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch is a special event on the NZ sporting calendar as it holds the largest purse (€200,000 or NZ$334,000) for a women’s event in NZ.