WELLINGTON (Reuters) - World number one Lydia Ko will be New Zealand’s sole entrant in the women’s golf tournament at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, with Danny Lee and Ryan Fox taking the two men’s spots.
Ko is one of New Zealand’s top medal prospects in Rio, having taken the LPGA tour by storm since she turned professional in late 2013.
The 19-year-old has won two major championships in the last 12 months and finished no worse than a tie for third in the other three.
“I‘m super excited to represent New Zealand to be able to see the village, the food court and just everything its going to be so cool!” Ko said in a New Zealand Olympic Committee statement on Monday.
Lee has been quietly climbing the world rankings in the last two years and won his first title on the PGA Tour last year at the Greenbrier Classic.
He is currently ranked 40th in the world, but with restrictions of just four players from any one country, he is the 12th highest-ranked player in the field.
Fox, the son of former All Blacks flyhalf and current selector Grant, qualified for the Olympics through a quota spot after two top five finishes on the European Challenge Tour.
“The Olympic Games are a pinnacle sporting event and I can say I‘m the third generation of my family to represent New Zealand in three different sports, so its a pretty cool thing to be able to do,” said Fox.
While his father played rugby for New Zealand, his maternal grandfather Merv Wallace played international cricket for the country in a career interrupted by World War Two. He captained the team in his final two tests, against South Africa in 1953.
“This is a truly proud moment for New Zealand Golf and we believe these three athletes have a great chance in Rio and will represent the country with pride,” New Zealand Golf chief executive Dean Murphy said.
“It has been an exciting few years for golf in this country and the Rio Olympic Games will be a special moment for the players and golf fans alike.”
Golf is making its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, though the men’s field has been blighted with withdrawals of several of the top players.
The top four players in the world, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy have all withdrawn due to concerns over the Zika virus.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Martyn Herman