Sporting superstar Ash Barty has announced her eagerly awaited comeback, but it’s not on the familiar courts that fans have come to associate with the former World No. 1.
Instead, Barty is trading her tennis racquet for golf clubs for the upcoming New Zealand Open.
Having attended the tournament as a spectator in 2023, Barty is now poised to take centre stage as the headliner of the Ambassador lineup. Scheduled to take place between February 29 and March 3, 2024, at Queenstown’s scenic Millbrook Resort, the New Zealand Open will witness Barty’s transition from the tennis court to the golf green.
Barty, who boasts an impressive golf handicap of 4, is no stranger to the world of golf. In 2022, she participated in the Icons Golf Series held in New Jersey, rubbing shoulders with international sporting legends such as Michael Phelps, Harry Kane, and Ricky Ponting.
This exposure to the elite echelons of golf has evidently fueled Barty’s passion for the sport, leading to her decision to take a swing at the New Zealand Open.
“The New Zealand Open is a fantastic event and I really enjoyed my time there last year supporting our friend Louis Dobbelaar,” Barty said.
“Having the opportunity to play in the pro-am event in 2024 is something I’m excited about, though I definitely need to start practicing! Golf has always been a passion of mine, I feel fortunate to be able to play in events like the New Zealand Open and experience an incredible course like Millbrook.”
However, even a tennis superstar like Barty isn’t immune to pre-game jitters. She acknowledged the “nerve-wracking” prospect of that first tee shot but expressed optimism that once the ball hits the fairway, the nerves should subside.
“I imagine that first tee shot in front of everyone will be quite nerve-wracking, but once the first ball hits the fairway, hopefully things should settle down. My aim is to go out there and enjoy every minute of it and hopefully make the weekend pro-am cut,” she said.
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While fans may have held out hope for Barty to wield a tennis racquet once again, the 27-year-old has stood firm on her decision to stay away from the competitive tennis scene, dashing hopes of a grand comeback like some of her counterparts.
The Australian tennis sensation, who shocked the sports world by stepping away from the game at the peak of her career, is resolute in her commitment to prioritise motherhood over the allure of the tennis court.
“I won’t be one of them” Barty recently told AAP, referencing the recent comebacks of fellow champions Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, and Angelique Kerber.
“I miss parts of it, but mostly I miss seeing my mates.
“I miss seeing the girls that I’ve built such a relationship with over so many years, but a lot of my best mates have also retired now and they’re kind of moving on to their next chapters.
“We’ll still get out there and hit occasionally if anyone asks or any of my mates ask.”
While Barty acknowledges the occasional friendly match with mates, she insists that she is “enjoying” what she is doing now.
Part of which is being a mother to her six-month-old son Hayden.
“There’s nothing keeping me away. It’s not like I’m doing things to keep myself away from the court,” Barty said.
“I want be able to be there to raise Hayden and I want to be able to enjoy that.
“That’s what I want to do, plain and simple. That’s where my priorities lie now.
“I absolutely love being mum. There’s nothing else that I prefer to do.”