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Representing New Zealand in Rio will be 'special,' Lydia Ko says

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand -- Top-ranked golfer Lydia Ko says the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be her top priority this year.

Ko, who will defend her New Zealand Open title from Friday, said there was "so much excitement and vibe" around the Olympic tournament, "especially as it's the first time women will play at the Olympics in golf."

"Ever since they announced that golf will be in the Olympics I said, 'Hey, I want to get myself on that team,'" said Ko, an 18-year-old New Zealander. "For any athlete to say you're an Olympian is a whole new proud feeling, and to represent your country on such an international stage it's going to be a pretty special week."

The 54-hole New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Golf Club is co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies PGA.