• Lydia Ko skips Thailand LPGA event in favour of NZ Open
• First time back in her homeland since becoming world No.1
• Seven Scots in NZ Open field, Catriona Matthew T27 in Thailand
Lydia Ko has returned to New Zealand for the first time since becoming world No.1 as she prepares for the ISPS Handa Women’s NZ Open.
The 17-year-old, who claimed her sixth LPGA victory at the ISPS Handa Australian Open last week, has opted to skip this week’s LPGA event in Thailand in favour of playing in her native country.
Unsurprisingly, Lydia Ko has been getting some significant media attention in her homeland, being subject of a packed press conference before attending a charity Q&A event with Kiwi rugby legend Dan Carter last night.
Speaking at the press conference ahead of the tournament at Clearwater GC, where she has won once before, Lydia Ko said: “It’s really awesome to be in a position to share this No.1 ranking with everyone in New Zealand.
“This is my sixth time here and every time I’ve had a great experience. To know that I’m 17 and this is my sixth is pretty cool. I’ve got so many great memories here at Clearwater and last year so many people came out to watch me play. It’s not an LPGA event but there are still world class players here.”
Lydia Ko also remains humble in her role model status, with a true example of her fame shown by Brian Perry shelling out $35,000 for his son to play alongside her in today’s pro-am competition.
She said: “The coolest part of being in my position is that everywhere you go there are juniors that say ‘you’re my favourite player’ or ‘you’re my role model’. For another girl or boy to say that makes me feel special and I need to work harder so I can really become that role model they look up to.”
Lydia Ko leads the line-up for the event, which features no fewer than seven Scots, including Sally Watson, Kylie Walker, Carly Booth, Vikki Laing, Heather Macrae, Pamela Pretswell and Michele Thomson.
After the first round of the LPGA Tour event in Thailand, American pair Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lang, along with Yani Tseng, lead on six-under par, with lone Scot in the field, Catriona Matthew, currently T27 on one-under par.