The 2012 champion Lindsey Wright of Australia

Lindsey Wright believes that winning the 2012 ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch changed her career.

Wright, who at her best in 2009 climbed to No.12 in the world, had not won a tournament for eight years and had recessed into a dark hole, a period that she called the lowest point of her life.

She suffered from anxiety and depression and considered giving away the game. Wright sort professional help in 2011 and things began to slowly improve.

“I really didn’t want to come back out and play,” said the 33-year-old from Albury, New South Wales of her depression.

“I just wanted to do something else. I felt like I was being smothered by it all. It all came to a head at the end of 2009. It happened quickly. I had doubts and they started to grow.”

She will return to Christchurch for the tournament from February 8 – 10, this time the Clearwater Golf Club, to defend her title in a much better headspace. But she hasn’t forgotten the hard times of 2010 and 2011.

“People think ‘depression is a mental thing just toughen up and get over it’ but it is not that simple. It was affecting me physically I wasn’t sleeping and it was really affecting my concentration and focus. I felt like I couldn’t play anymore and it was tough.”

Wright did not pick up a club for months. She had some time out to doing media work and arrived at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open with no expectations.

“If someone had told me that I was going to win that week I would have laughed at them.”

The Aussie shot a final round four-under 68 – including a 4m birdie putt on the final hole – to finish on 10-under 206 and win by one shot.

“It was a real confidence boost. I was going through such a rough time and my belief was at a real low point but I changed my whole attitude and mindset that week.

“I had got to the point where I decided that I was going to enjoy my golf no matter what. I came to New Zealand with a really positive intent to enjoy the week and that really came through in my golf. I capped it off by winning and it was a really satisfying an amazing turnaround.”

She is taking the same mental approach as she prepares for her title defence in a world-class field at the Clearwater Golf Club. No pressure. No expectations.

“Everyone knows that you are only as good as your last hit. There are so many good players coming to Christchurch I don’t expect that I will be talked about too much. But it is nice to be defending champion and to be at a new course should be exciting.”

It was a timely win for Wright. It got her in the right headspace again and she went onto have good years both in America, finishing 49th on Money list with US$257,052, and in Europe where she finished 33rd on the Order of Merit, with Euro 76,286.83.

It is amazing what a difference a week can have and Wright wants to make the most of the kick-start to her career. 

“I am 33 now and consider myself at the midpoint of my career and it is up to me where I take my golf from here. One thing I am focused on is improving my health and fitness. It is something that is so important and I have taken it for granted so far. Getting fitter and stronger is a big priority.”

She is looking to play more in Europe in 2012 to ensure she enjoys her golf. “Playing on the Ladies European Tour was really refreshing actually. Compared to the LPGA Tour it felt like I was on a golfing holiday in many ways. It was much more relaxing and we were in a different country and culture every week. I am looking to spend more time in Europe because it is less intense than life in the States.”

“I don’t want to be content with just aiming for top 10s [in 2013]. The NZ Women’s Open reminded me of how good it is to win. There is nothing like the adrenalin rush from being in contention to win a golf tournament and I want to be in that position as much as I can in 2013.”

The ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch has attracted a world-class field including the previous four champions of the event – Wright (2012), Kristie Smith (2011), Laura Davies (2010) and Gwladys Nocera (2009) – along with World No.1 amateur Lydia Ko.

Also in the field for the championship from February 8 – 10 at the Clearwater Golf Club are former major champion Anna Nordqvist and five-time LPGA Tour winner Sophie Gustafson (both of Sweden).

World No.16 Angela Stanford and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece are other notable players in a field that will include 32 LPGA Tour Players. The all-star cast will also include European No. 1 Carlota Ciganda. It is the strongest field ever assembled for the NZ Women’s Open. 

Tickets are available at the gate.