Lydia Ko to play in HSBC event

Teenage golf prodigy Lydia Ko will become the youngest professional to play in the HSBC Women's Champions when the 16-year-old takes to the greens of the Sentosa Golf Club next year.

The New Zealander is among the biggest draws of the Feb27-March 2 event, which carries a large prize purse of US$1.4 million (S$1.75 million).

Her entry means the world's top four golfers will feature here. The "Big Three" - South Korean No. 1 Park In Bee, Norwegian Suzann Pettersen (No. 2) and reigning champion American Stacy Lewis (No. 3) - have also been pencilled in.

Ko climbed two spots to world No. 4 this week, after winning the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan over the weekend. It was just her second event since turning professional in October.

The win also gave her her first pay cheque of US$150,000. A winner of four professional titles as an amateur, she had forgone potential earnings of over US$1 million earlier in her career.

She said: "Everyone has told me what a fantastic tournament (the HSBC Women's Champions) is and how people think of it as 'Asia's Major'.

"There are a lot of players who are going to be very tough to beat but I will give it my best shot while enjoying all that Singapore has to offer.

"I think it will be a really fun week!"

To qualify, a player must have won on the United States LPGA Tour or have finished the year among the world's top 20 players.

Said Lewis: "Coming out on top of such a world-class field at (this year's event) was a huge confidence boost for me and a wonderful way to start the year."

But the 28-year-old will have to hold off the challenge of Rolex Player of the Year Park, who is the outstanding performer of the season after winning the first three Majors of the year.

Said Park, 25, who finished tied for 37th place this year: "I know I will have to get off to a strong start and play well at the HSBC Women's Champions if I am to stay at the top, especially with Suzann and Stacy playing so well and all the other great players in the field."

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