CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Lauara Davies came into the press room on Thursday here at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open nursing a blistered thumb. Amazingly, it’s her first hand blister (ever), and it came from hitting so many balls earlier in the week. The Australia/New Zealand swing is Davies’ favorite part of the year.
That being said, she has seen the kiwis, koalas and kangaroos. When it comes to sightseeing, Davies will leave the excursions to rookies like Sweden’s Camilla Lennarth and American Mallory Fraiche, playing in New Zealand for the first time.
Aussie Jessica Speechley rounded out a threesome of young twentysomethings who took to McLeans Forest Thursday afternoon on mountain bikes. Craig Banbury, owner of City Cycle Hire, took his bike truck out of the garage for the first time in nearly two years to accompany players around a wooded trail. Business has been woefully slow since the devastating earthquake of February 2011 closed so many hotels and restaurants around Christchurch. Banbury sees events like the NZ Open as the perfect opportunity to pump life back into this community.
“I had to dust off the cobwebs,” Banbury said with a laugh.
The outing was organized by local TV and the threesome screamed and hollered for the camera as they went racing around wooded turns.
“Way more fun than the spinning classes I’ve taken,” said Lennarth, an Alabama grad who is used to cruising the streets of Stockholm dodging cars rather than trees.
Wearing her golf shoes, the adventurous Swede opted to cycle straight through a large puddle of water rather than skirt around its edge. Lennarth is enjoying her time on the other side of the world, but admits to dreading the trip back home: Christchurch-Auckland-Los Angeles-London-Stockholm.
“I’m taking an around-the-world trip without really meaning to,” she said.
But, as Davies would tell any of these young players, it’s a worthwhile effort.