22 Jul 2016

Ko Leads Golf into New Olympic Era

5:52 pm on 22 July 2016

World number one Lydia Ko is one of New Zealand's hot favourites to bring home a gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Lydia Ko with her trophy after winning the Evian Championship on September 13, 2015 in the French Alps town of Evian-les-Bains.

Lydia Ko Photo: AFP

Golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years but it has been 116 years since women teed it up at the games.

Ko will attempt to become just the second woman to win a gold medal in golf.

Ko has been a big campaigner for golf's reintroduction at the Olympics and has stated that winning a gold medal at the Olympics would be a career highlight.

The 19-year-old has been in hot form coming into the tournament, she's finished in a tie for 10th or better 11 times out of her 13 starts on the LPGA Tour this year.

Most recently Ko won her fourth LPGA title of 2016, the Marathon Classic in Ohio. One of those LPGA wins was the first major of the year - the ANA Inspiration.

In total, Ko has won 14 times on the LPGA Tour and a further five times on various professional tours.

Her first win on the LPGA Tour came in 2012 at the Canadian Women's Open as an amateur at the age of 15 years and four months, making her the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event.

She successfully defended her title at the 2013 Canadian Open.

Her first major win came at the Evian Championship in 2015 - at 18 years old she became the youngest female major winner of all-time.

She then won back to back majors at the ANA Inspiration to become the youngest double major winner as well.

Danny Lee

Danny Lee tees off in Irving, Texas, 2015.

Danny Lee Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Danny Lee is New Zealand's leading male golfer and a strong medal contender heading into the Olympics.

Like Ko, Lee was born in South Korea before emigrating to New Zealand as a child.

Lee's mother introduced him to the game when living in Korea but it was in New Zealand where his talents really began to flourish.

While an amateur, Lee broke Tiger Woods' record as the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Amateur in 2008.

In 2009 Lee won the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur and turned professional later that year.

Lee's early years as a professional were relatively quiet, he won once at a second tier event in America in 2011 while he was trying to make it on the PGA Tour - the world's biggest golf tour.

In 2015 Lee's form began to improve dramatically, culminating in a victory at the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic last July, the biggest achievement in Lee's career to date.

Since then, Lee has been a consistent performer on the PGA Tour, finishing 10th or better in 10 events in the past year.

Because eight of the world's top 15 male golfers have pulled out of the Olympics, Lee is the 12th highest ranked player at the event, making the 25-year-old a good chance for an Olympic medal.

Ryan Fox

Ryan Fox holds the Le Vaudreuil Challenge trophy.

Ryan Fox holds the Le Vaudreuil Challenge trophy. Photo: Supplied/European PGA

Ryan Fox has become the third generation in his family to represent New Zealand at sport.

Ryan Fox was a late bloomer on the golf scene.

While he represented New Zealand as an amateur at the Eisenhower Trophy, the biggest amateur event in golf, he did not turn professional until he completed his university degree.

The 29-year-old splits his time between the PGA Tour of Australasia and the second tier tour in Europe.

He has won on both tours, in 2014 he won the Western Australian Open then a year later he won the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France.

Fox is also a regular competitor on the New Zealand golf scene, where he has won multiple Charles Tour events and finished in the top five at the New Zealand Open.

Fox's father is 1987 Rugby World Cup winner Grant Fox, while his maternal grandfather represented New Zealand in cricket back in the 1930's.

Fox says becoming the third generation to represent New Zealand on the sporting arena is a big goal of his and the Olympics will be a career highlight.