10 Jan 2014

Ko seen as changing face of NZ sport

8:38 pm on 10 January 2014

The emergence of Auckland golfer Lydia Ko is being highlighted as an example of what could become the changing face of New Zealand sport.

Lydia Ko playing in Florida last year.

Lydia Ko playing in Florida last year. Photo: AFP / Getty Images North America

A prominent academic says the rapid growth of Asian communities, especially in Auckland, will significantly change the pool of talent for traditional sports.

Ko, a 16-year-old golf professional, was born in Korea but grew up in Auckland. She is part of an Auckland Asian community which grew by 30% between the last two Censuses and now makes up 23% of the city's population.

Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley, who studies population growth, says a wave of immigrants' children who favour sports other than traditional codes, such as rugby and netball, are a challenge to those sports.

Professor Spoonley says that generation will play a much bigger part in the wider society than their parents do and some traditional sporting codes may have to work harder to attract them.

"One of the challenges will be how can some of these sports reach out to these communities. But other sports are doing incredibly well - badminton, table tennis, football (soccer), basketball and, of course, golf.

"And I think the future face of Auckland is represented by someone like Lydia Ko - the Korean influence on golf here is very interesting."