World number one Lydia Ko has become the first golfer to win New Zealand’s Lonsdale Cup in its 54-year-history after receiving the award for 2015.
The Lonsdale Cup is presented annually to the athlete or team that made the most outstanding contribution to Olympic or Commonwealth sport, and following golf and rugby sevens' addition to the Olympic programme in 2009, athletes from those disciplines have been eligible for consideration ahead of Rio 2016.
The award caps off what was a phenomenal year for the 18-year-old as she played her way into golf's history books.
In 2015, Ko became the sport's youngest world number one and landed five Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) titles including her first major, the Evian Championship.
She also collected her second New Zealand Open title, won the LPGA Tour's points race and was named the LPGA Player of the Year.
"Last year was a great year for me on the course and I have aspirations to keep this momentum up in 2016," said Ko, who is in Christchurch ahead of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open, scheduled to take place from Friday (February 12) to Sunday (February 14).
"Winning the Lonsdale Cup for 2015 is a real honour and, with golf being included at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, there are added incentives for me to work towards producing more good golf this year.
"I hope to continue playing well in the next few months and work hard towards Olympic selection into the New Zealand team."
Away from the field of play, Ko launched the annual Lydia Ko Scholarship in June, giving two young New Zealand female golfers the opportunity to travel to her training base in the American state of Florida for a week of personal coaching and mentoring from both Ko and her group of providers.
Priscilla Eujin Kang and Anna Jiheh An became the inaugural recipients of the scholarship.
"I really admire Lydia and her focus and hard work and I want to be just like her one day," said An.
"This scholarship will help me learn more and train harder so I can turn pro and hopefully live the dream like Lydia is."
As well as inspiring future stars, Ko is also an active ambassador for two key New Zealand golf initiatives aimed at getting more people playing golf - the "LOVE Golf" and "She Loves Golf" programmes.
"Lydia’s international golfing achievements are inspirational for all New Zealanders and her conscious effort to support the future of the game in New Zealand is hugely admirable," said Kereyn Smith, chief executive of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC).
"Lydia’s record in 2015 has wowed the golfing world and the humble approach and response she takes to her success certainly cements her status as an inspiration and role model both here and abroad.
"We are excited for what 2016 could bring for Lydia and the New Zealand Olympic Committee is thrilled to see golf reinstated on to the Olympic programme in Rio."
Ko today met with Rob Waddell, Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Olympic team, who gave her a preview of the Lonsdale Cup ahead of a formal award presentation at the ISPS Power of Sport Dinner on Friday evening.
The pair spoke about preparations for Rio 2016, something which Ko is said to be monitoring particularly closely following the outbreak of the Zika virus.
The World Health Organization has declared that the virus, spread by mosquitoes, constitutes a public health emergency with cases having been rising in Brazil and the rest of the Americas in the build-up to the Olympics.
"We still have eight months until the Olympics, it's something we have got to keep looking at and monitor but for now, I guess that is all we can do," Ko was reported as saying last week.
The Lonsdale Cup was first presented in 1961 to Sir Murray Halberg, the 5,000 metres gold medallist at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
Since then it has been awarded to the likes of Sir John Walker, 1,500m gold medallist at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, as well as middle-distance runner Sir Peter Snell, a three-time Olympic champion, and sailor Barbara Kendall, winner of the women’s sailboard Lechner A-390 event at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
The Lonsdale Cup is sterling silver and of historic value, having its origins in a 1911 sporting festival between the United Kingdom, Canada and Australasia held to honour the accession of George V.
The winner is selected by the New Zealand Olympic President’s Council and the NZOC Board.