Golf: Superstar Lydia Ko calls for return of Women's NZ Open to LPGA schedule

New Zealand golf's biggest name is calling for the return of the Women's NZ Open tournament.

The last tournament was held in 2017, but LPGA star Lydia Ko wants to see it back on the calendar to help showcase the next generation of golfers.

"To see that there is no national open in the women's side - it's sad," Ko tells Newshub. "I would love for girls to be motivated and inspired, and dream of wanting to play our national open."

Ko shot to golfing stardom in 2013, when she won the tournament as a 15-year-old amateur, before claiming back-to-back crowns as a professional in 2015 and 2016, but she fears the next generation won't get that chance.

"I do hope that it returns, because I'm sure that there are girls that dream of wanting to win the national open," says Ko.  

The event used to be on the LPGA tour calendar, but was cut in 2017, due to a lack of funding, which NZ Golf hasn’t been able to secure since. 

"It's been a challenge that we haven't been able to get over in the last four years," chief executive Dean Murphy tells Newshub. 

More than NZ$5 million is required, an amount Murphy says can't be sourced nationally.

"It's challenging and we need some international connections for that, and right now, our borders are closed, which makes it very, very difficult," he adds. 

But, not all hope is lost - Murphy has targeted a return for the tournament soon. 

"We are very hopeful that the event can come back onto the calendar for 2023," he says. "Our minds are firmly focussed on that."

Organisers have every incentive to make it happen, with Ko confirming that if the tournament returns, so would she.  

"Hopefully, when it is around early in the year, which would make it easier for me to put it in the schedule, I'll obviously try and come," Ko says. "That would be something that I would definitely look into." 

Murphy isn't surprised.

"She's always been committed to golf in New Zealand and has fronted at every woman's Open before," he says. 

"If we can get the right scheduling, I'm sure she will be back here to try and win that title again."

Ko's return may just be sooner, not later.