Emotional Kemp draws strength for ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch - Wednesday, 15 February 2012

An emotional Sarah Kemp drew strength from the earthquake-hit central city ahead of the fourth ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open hosted by Christchurch which tees off tomorrow.

The 26 year old Australian, runner-up twice in the New Zealand Open, is chasing a breakthrough victory in the 54-hole championship at Pegasus Golf and Sports Club.

The self-confessed fan of Christchurch, Kemp was moved when she was shown through the city today, nearly one year on from last year’s devastating earthquake.

“It was a good experience but a sad one. I remember going in there last year and it’s like a ghost town now. It’s pretty depressing,” said Kemp.

“It seems to picking up a little bit with the new shops but there is a long way to go. It’s really sad.

“I don’t know why but I feel very comfortable in Christchurch and I really like the Pegasus Golf Course. I have some good memories when I finished second and I know I can score well there.

“I really like New Zealand so I have been looking forward to this week.”

Kemp plies her trade on the biggest stage in women’s golf, the US LPGA where she made seven out of 14 cuts last year.

She comes to Christchurch with confidence after finishing 10th at the ISPS Handa Australian open last week.

“It was really good at the Australian Open last week. It was my highlight for the year so far and I also draw on some confidence from how I have gone here at Pegasus. I think about both of those factors will help me here.”

Compatriot Smith is also drawing off her vibes from last year when she defends her crown at Pegasus.

The Western Australian, who plays on the Ladies European Tour, achieved a breakthrough win last year but a serious shoulder injury thwarted her progress for much of the year. Now fully healed, Smith is looking forward to starting 2012 like last year.

“Obviously it’s nice to have some positive memories coming back here,” said Smith. “I have always had positive memories of New Zealand. I have always played well here. I am looking forward to defending which you don’t get to do very often so I am excited.”

Smith said the Pegasus course has matured and the greens more receptive.

“The course seems softer, well the greens seem a little bit softer than what they were last year so I think you’ll see some better scoring this year. “

After missing much of the second half of the year with injury, Smith said she will not figure on many of the bookmaker’s tips for the week.

“I don’t think there is any pressure on me. To be honest my form hasn’t been that great. Obviously as the defending champ the public are going to be watching me but I have very low expectations.”

Smith says the hype on 14 year old New Zealand sensation Lydia Ko is not misplaced.

“It is nice to have the spotlight on Lydia and the other girls. I’d put my money on Lydia.

“I played with her a couple of weeks ago. She’s a very good little player a huge talent.

“She seems to be a bit like a robot with that putter. If she gets anywhere near the pin she is going to shoot some low scores.”

There are 109 players from 25 countries in the field for the 54-hole championship, which is a co-sanction event between Australian Ladies Professional Golf and the Ladies European Tour (LET).

The winners of the previous three New Zealand Open events have come from the LET, with Gwladys Nocera (France) winning in 1009, the great Laura Davies (England) in 2010 and Australia’s Kristie Smith last year.

There is a cut for the top 50 professionals plus ties after 36 holes, to fight out for the Euro 200,000 prize money over the final round on Sunday.

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