Sunday, February 19, 2012


Kent-born Australian Lindsey Wright, 32, has returned from the golfing wilderness to win the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch.
Wright, born at Tunbridge Wells on December 31, 1979, emigrated with her parents to Australia when she was a youngster and was once No 12 in the world before taking time out of the game with a loss of form. She nailed a 4m birdie putt on the final hole to claim victory at Pegasus Golf and Sports Club near Christchurch today.
Playing the last, the overnight leader was tied with compatriot Jessica Speechley and Irish-born former US Curtis Cup player Alison Walshe who were sitting in the clubhouse at nine-under, before Wright landed the crucial winning putt.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s still sinking in. I putted really well all day and the last six holes I was really nervous,” said Wright. “I haven’t been in this position for a while and I thought to myself ‘I can win this.’”
“I looked at the leader board and saw Alison Walshe up there and Speechley at nine-under and thought ‘no, I can make this putt. Just keep your head down, just hit a great putt. My caddy was more shocked that I was I think.”
Wright shot a final round four-under 68 to finish on 10-under 206, a shot ahead of Walshe and Speechley who shot rounds of 69 and a tournament-low seven-under 65 respectively. Experienced Canadian Lorie Kane and Australia’s Stephanie Na both shot 69s to finish in a share of fourth place on eight-under, with five Americans in the top-10. Leading New Zealander was 17 year old Cecilia Cho, the World No. 3 ranked amateur, who shot a three-under 69 to finish on five-under.
She edged her good friend and rival 14-year-old Lydia Ko by one shot to bring the curtain down on her outstanding amateur career as she returns to South Korea to turn professional.
“I have watched Lydia play and she was good this week. It is good being out of the spotlight but I am fine being in the spotlight as well,” said Cho. “It’s good to get some momentum before I turn professional. It would have been nice to score lower but it’s been a good tournament.
“I am going to miss so much about New Zealand. I am going to miss travelling with teams but turning pro is a new challenge and I am excited about that.” Speechley enjoyed the white-hot hand in an otherwise bitterly cold day. The 22 year old, who turned professional last year, fired a blistering opening nine in seven-under 29 including five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth.
She turned at nine-under for the tournament to open a one shot lead, before mixing a solitary bogey at the 13th with a vital birdie on the last to get to nine-under for the tournament.
“My putting was the key to the round. The greens at Royal Melbourne last week were ridiculously fast but I finally got the pace here after two days,” Speechley said.
“Anything can happen especially around here if the wind blows so I told myself to stay patient and hang in there. I just turned pro in December, so (to win) would be amazing. A first tournament win after only a few months would have been amazing.”
Joint overnight leader Walshe had dropped back to seven-under after 11 holes before making two late birdies to put her name into the hat.
There was considerable interest in Ko to again show her immense talents well beyond her years. While her putter had been a key all week, on the day she most needed it most, her putter went as cold as the weather. Ko had to be content to finish with a two over 74 today to finish on four-under in a tie for 17th place and was quick to acknowledge the performance of her good friend Cho.
“Her playing good improved my game and hopefully me playing good improved her game,” said Ko. “She is soon going and it is quite sad. She has been a friendly rival and I am going to miss her.
“I played good today but my putts didn’t roll in today like the other two days. I am happy but kind of disappointed too,” Ko said. “It is really good to play back in New Zealand after playing in Australia for a while. I have played good most of the time I have played in Christchurch.
“I won the NSW Open and Australian Amateur so not winning here is not going to make me depressed or too disappointed.”
The tournament proved an outstanding success, attracting a record 9247 spectators over the three days, more than the previous best of the four round tournament.
Par 216 (3x72)
206 Lyndsey Wright (AUS) 70 68 68
207 Alison Walshe (USA) 68 70 69, Jessica Speechley (AUS) 69 73 65
208 Stephanie Na (AUS) 70 69 69, Lorie Kane (CAN) 72 67 69
209 Beth Allen (USA) 70 71 68, Danielle Kang (USA) 68 72 69
210 Rachel Jennings (ENG) 72 70 68, Haeji Kang (KOR) 69 69 72, Gerina Piller (USA) 68 71 71, Kris Tamulis (USA) 70 71 69
211 Carlota Ciganda (ESP) 69 69 73, Pernilla Lindberg (SWE) 70 72 69, Cecilia Cho (NZ) (am) 70 72 69, Sarah Oh (AUS) 69 72 70, Cara Freeman (USA) 70 70 71
212 Mariajo Uribe (COL) 70 68 74, Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) 73 73 66, Lydia Ko (NZ) (am) 69 69 74, Linda Wessberg (SWE) 70 73 69
213 Amelia Lewis (USA) 68 74 71, Bree Arthur (AUS) 74 69 70, Elizabeth Bennett (ENG) 68 75 70, Kristie Smith (AUS) 71 72 70
214 Veronica Zorzi (ITA) 72 72 70, Sarah-Jane Smith (AUS) 71 70 73, Julia Boland (AUS) 71 68 75
215 Frances Bondad (AUS) 72 71 72, Kym Larratt (ENG) 67 77 71, Joanna Klatten (FRA) 67 75 73, Cindy Lacrosse (USA) 72 67 76, Sydnee Michaels (USA) 73 70 72
216 Meredith Duncan (USA) 70 74 72, Laura Diaz (USA) 71 73 72, Hannah Yun (USA) 68 76 72, Irene Cho (USA) 71 72 73
217 Mo Martin (USA) 76 67 74, Alison Whitaker (AUS) 74 68 75, Sara Brown (USA) 70 75 72, Danah Bordner (USA) 72 75 70
218 Valentine Derrey (FRA) 76 71 71, Cathryn Bristow (NZL) 72 73 73, Caroline Bon (NZ) 73 73 72, Sarah Kemp (AUS) 73 72 73
219 Karen Lunn (AUS) 73 72 74, Vikki Laing (SCO) 70 75 74
220 Jodi Ewart (ENG) 76 71 73, Lynnette Brooky (NZ) 67 76 77, Whitney Hillier (AUS) 74 72 74, Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) 73 72 75
221 Charlie Douglass (ENG) 71 76 74, Emily Perry (NZL) 67 76 78, Jaclyn Sweeney (USA) 68 74 79
222 Grace Lennon (AUS) 70 72 80, Georgina Simpson (ENG) 71 75 76, Minsun Kim (SKOR) 75 72 75
223 Jane Kim (AUS) 71 73 79, Susan Farron (NZL) 74 72 77