Watching world No.1 Lydia Ko at close quarters shapes as Momoka Kobori’s secret weapon at this week’s Worrells Women’s NSW Open at Forster-Tuncurry Golf Club starting Friday.
Fresh from a tie for 16th at last week’s Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Team Series Singapore event, Kobori is the highest-ranked player in the field for the $150,000 event at the twisting, rumpled Tuncurry layout.
Former Ladies British Masters champion Lydia Hall also played in Singapore last week and is another international eager to deny emerging Australian players such as Kelsey Bennett, Stephanie Bunque, Kristalle Blum and Amy Walsh from recording the biggest wins of their young careers.
As a fellow Kiwi, Kobori has taken the opportunity to spend time with Ko at every chance she gets, including last week in Singapore.
But rather than any specific advice, the 23-year-old said she learns most by simply watching Ko – the 2012 Women’s NSW Open champion – do her thing on the golf course.
“That was really cool to be able to spend more time with her and have a chat here and there last week in Singapore,” said Kobori, the No.208-ranked player on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking.
“She’s great, she’s lovely, always happy to have a chat and real friendly.
“Watching her play was the biggest thing I’ve gotten out of it when I’ve interacted with her.
“I got to play with her in Indonesia last year at the Teams event and just being around her and watching how she goes about things, there’s a lot to learn from that for sure.”
Just like her travel from Singapore to Tuncurry this week – she flew Singapore-Bali-Brisbane-Coffs Harbour before driving two-and-a-half hours south – Kobori’s past 12 months have been a whirlwind, starting on the WPGA Tour of Australasia.
In addition to her playoff loss to Aaron Pike at TPS Hunter Valley, Kobori was tied for ninth at TPS Victoria, sixth at the Vic Open, tied for fourth at TPS Murray River and tied for 11th at TPS Sydney.
It provided the financial base to take her talents to the LET Access Series and the confidence to make an immediate impact.
“It’s actually insane how different the circumstances are within the space of a year,” said Kobori, who won twice on the LET Access Series and finished third on the Order of Merit to earn promotion to the Ladies European Tour in 2023.
“Being able to have that good stretch of tournaments over here in Australia and having been able to make a bit of money, that gave me the option to go to Europe to play on the LET Access.
“That kick-started the whole year for me really, which led to what it’s allowing me to do this year.
“It’s actually been amazing; it’s been great. It all started from there.”
The superstitious types will suggest it’s not a good omen, but Kobori’s team that also included Amelia Mehmet-Grohn were six-point winners of Thursday’s pro-am, the clinical Kiwi dissecting the Tuncurry course with expert precision and rolling in multiple birdie putts from outside 10 feet.
She only entered the tournament after two LET events scheduled for Thailand were postponed, but she is now shaping as the player to beat.
“I didn’t even realise that these events were on at this time but then we looked at the schedule and realised it was actually perfect,” Kobori added.
“To have this week and next week at Bonville (Australian Women’s Classic) works out perfectly with my schedule.
“Why not come back and play these awesome tournaments? Good chance to come home and play at the same time.”
Kobori has been drawn to play with Wagga Wagga Women’s Pro-Am champion Jordan O’Brien and star Queensland amateur Sarah Hammett from 9.10am on Friday morning, the first groups to tee off at 8am from the first tee.
Entry is free to spectators all three days, and the final round will be broadcast live on Kayo Sports on Sunday from 12pm-5.30pm.