New Zealand, You’ve Been Sanctioned

Superstar Status of Lydia Ko Brought LPGA to New Zealand, But Today Might be about Brooke Henderson

I’ve never been to New Zealand, but members of my immediate family have, and my wife has relatives there. They all come back calling it a green jewel, which makes sense to someone from western Oregon and Washington. Notable golfers from New Zealand are not a recent phenomenon. I grew up in the days of left-hander Bob Charles. These days, I count myself among Lydia Ko’s admirers, and even though she’s not having the sort of year she would like to have, she’s making ever new waves in her home country. She should be and is fairly symbolic of the New Zealand Open, but this year, it’s being elevated into a sanctioned LPGA event. One would think that Ko would stand a good chance of winning the event, and she usually does, but perhaps not this year. I also count myself among the admirers of Canadian Brooke Henderson, and she is making a push at her sixth career win, with the Christchurch area as her venue.

The McKayson New Zealand Open is being played at Windross Farm Golf Club, a few miles outside the city, on what has been described as pristine farmland. Apparently, it used to be a flat potato farm, but I don’t see any potatoes, and not all that much flat, either, It’s a links course, but proves that a good example of that style doesn’t need to be three or four centuries old. In fact, Windross opened last September. Of note is that two New Zealanders designed the course, Brett Thompson and Phil Tatourougi. Officials now have the star and the course with which to make their case to the LPGA, and it wasn’t that hard to sell the idea of a sanctioned tournament in Ko country. It’s supposed to be a full 72 hole event, but Mother Nature has had other ideas. There’s a reason that New Zealand is so green. Just like Oregon, it’s rain that makes it all happen.

New Zealand has had its share of misfortunes with weather and earthquakes in recent years, including the city of Christchurch. Tournament officials saw the rain coming in plenty of time, but went ahead anyway. Determined to complete the four rounds, the final day was stopped six holes into the last 18. Henderson, leading by 4 strokes, finished those first few holes at minus 3, and if that continues, the final 12 should be about all she needs for a resounding win. Of course, predicting a golf game is like herding cats, and we can never be sure. Belen Mozo of Spain led the tournament in the third round with an ace, and is still not far off. Come to think of it, Ko isn’t exactly gone, either.

Rain is not uncommon for New Zealand, but it makes me wonder if the idea of climate change will exert a significant effect on normally predictable climes on tour over the coming years. The LPGA is in Asia early on. If monsoon seasons change the calendar or exert themselves in terms of severity, who knows what might happen. The debate will continue, but my interest will perk up when see start seeing snowstorms in Phoenix and coconut groves growing in British Columbia.

Meanwhile, Lydia Ko’s stature in the women’s game has brought the tour to New Zealand, and not a moment too soon. Golf is big there, and the country boasts a lot of beautiful courses. Whether Ko comes through in this year’s event, or Canada takes home the bragging rights – well, we’ll see…as soon as it stops raining.

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