World Number One Lydia Ko will defend her ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open Championship when the Ladies European Tour 2016 season gets under way from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 February at the Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch.

The Ladies European Tour (LET) and Australian Ladies Professional Golf (ALPG) co-sanctioned event will be played as a 54 hole Championship with Pro-Am Tournament scheduled for Thursday 11 February. 2015 was another year of success for golf’s golden girl Ko, who won five times on the LPGA Tour, becoming the youngest to reach 10 wins, rising to number one in the world and becoming the youngest ever to win a Major at the Evian Championship. To finish the year in style, Ko was recently crowned the LPGA 2015 Player of the Year and the Race to the CME Globe Champion, both for the second year running. Dean Murphy, CEO New Zealand Golf said he is delighted Lydia will return home to New Zealand to defend her title.

“Lydia continues to be a great ambassador for the game of golf and we are so pleased she will return home to New Zealand. The reality is, this is a very difficult tournament for Lydia to fit into her schedule and the fact she will compete is a measure of how much she values playing at home. Lydia continues to keep a very close relationship with New Zealand Golf and I’m sure the golfing fans of New Zealand will look forward to seeing her play as World Number 1 in our own backyard,” said Murphy.

Ko is very much looking forward to getting home to New Zealand and commented: “I’m excited to go back to Clearwater where I have made so many great memories. The New Zealand golfing public have always been such great supporters of me and it will be exciting to play in front of my home fans. I’m also really looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home.”

Midori Miyazaki of returning title sponsor ISPS Handa is pleased to have Ko confirmed to defend her title. “ISPS Handa is looking forward to another year of partnership with the New Zealand Golf, ALPG Tour and the Ladies European Tour. My Chairman, Dr Handa, is delighted that Lydia is playing in this tournament, which promises to bring real excitement to this year’s event and to reach out to many who will see the “power of sport” at its best through Lydia,” said Miyazaki.

Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she’s delighted that the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open Championship is returning to Christchurch and she knows residents and visitors to the city will get along to support this golfing event. “We’re a city that loves sport and to have a drawcard of the calibre of Lydia Ko playing in the championship is an added bonus,” she said. “Christchurch is well-known as a great host city and I’m sure people will get along to Clearwater to see a world class field of international female golfers in action.”

A full field of 144 players will compete at Clearwater Golf Club which every year presents a world class challenge for the players from around the world alongside the warm hospitality the member and the city of Christchurch provide for the players, officials and valued sponsors.

Bob Tuohy, Tournament Director, said the eighth edition of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open will no doubt attract a world class field of international players and with Lydia Ko defending, large galleries are expected to attend the Clearwater Golf Club. Tuohy paid tribute to the City of Christchurch who have remained in support of the New Zealand Women’s Open since inception in 2009. “The support of title sponsor ISPS Handa has also been fundamental to the on-going success and stature of the championship and we are fortunate that the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open has again been included in the ISPS global portfolio of events,” he said.