Stacey Keating (pictured) and Kristie Smith earned conditional LPGA Tour cards.
Australian professional Stacey Keating has good and bad memories of finishing third at the ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch in 2013.
The 27-year-old from Victoria, who is a two-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, is feeling good about her chances this week after contending for the title at the Clearwater Golf Club.
“I had a chance last year coming down the stretch which was always a nice feeling…except some young amateur came up and beat me,” joked Keating about the performance of Lydia Ko.
When asked what her standout memory of 2013 was she reiterated: “Some young amateur coming over the top of me [laughs].”
Keating played solid but not spectacular for the first round and then made a move in the final two rounds as the wind increased in strength.
“I played really well on the final day and I made a couple of birdies on the back nine and I can remember – which I shouldn’t really – but I three-putted the last to miss out on second place which was first place prize money. But anyway that is the way it goes. Hopefully I am in similar position this time.”
Keating has played plenty of golf on this side of the Tasman both as an amateur – competing in events like the Trans Tasman Cup and the Queen Sirkit Cup – and as a professional. She feels that experience in these conditions really helps.
“I like playing in NZ because it is so close to home and it feels the same,” she said.
“Experience is important and knowing how to play over here. It is going to play differently with the amount of breeze expected here. Coming down the stretch the wind is going to be a big factor especially from the 15th hole in.”
Keating played nine holes yesterday and believed the course was drier in 2013. The LPGA Tour member reckoned the course would play longer and that the greens were in perfect condition.
She knows that the talking point for the week will be the performance of Lydia Ko which she says is understandable with all she has achieved.
“[I am in awe] as much you can be of a 16-year-old,” she said.
“What she is doing for women’s golf and New Zealand Golf is just amazing. Hat’s off to her. It is getting us more attention and getting women’s golf more attention and even what she did last week in the first event of the year and
she finished seventh. It is amazing. She has changed clubs and everything and it hasn’t phased her one bit. I am sure she will be right up there again this week.”
Keating has not been surprised by the World No.4’s ability to carry on her success with the recent changes in her clubs, coach and environment.
“Not at all. She is just a kid. She doesn’t care. As much as the comments that go on about Rory [McIlroy] changing clubs, it is just a different scale. She is just a 16-year-old kid and taking it all in her stride.
“This week for her as the defending champion and being a Kiwi is going to be tough but she is obviously handling it really well. For the last month or so the media has been going on about the change of coach and what happened
there but she seems to handle it great. She speaks so well and she speaks well beyond her years.
“She is a very mature 16-year-old and playing golf does that, you grow up really quickly, and the media pressure she has had to deal with is amazing. I don’t give her advice. I look to her for advice.”
Keating would like nothing more than to battle Ko for the title in the final round and erase some of the bad memories of coming up short from last year.
“I want to be a chance of winning the event coming down the stretch and that would be a good result. I like this golf course and I like the event so I am hoping to be in contention again.”