Lydia Ko is exceptionally talented, mature beyond her years and well-liked by golf fans and competitors alike. She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe. Golfing legend, –Sweden’s Annika Sorestam 2014

By Roger Childs

A golfing sensation

In 2012 aged 14 she burst onto the world golfing scene with a win in the New South Wales Open making her the youngest player in the world to win a professional tournament. She was the world’s top amateur for 130 weeks before turning pro in 2013. In that year she won the Supreme Award at the New Zealand Halberg Sports Awards. She was also Sportswoman of the Year in 2014 and 2015. 

Great success around the world

In 2012 Lydia joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) circuit – the toughest in the world. The administrators waived the age rule of 18 and Ko’s ability to compete with the best was quickly proven when she won the Canadian Open later in the year. She defended this title in 2013 with a record low score of 265 – 65, 69, 67, 64.  She has 16 LPGA titles so far and has also won in Asia, Europe and Britain, as well as in New Zealand and Australia.

As Annika Sorestam comments above, Ko has increased world interest in women’s golf immensely with much greater media coverage and massive increases in the galleries at the ladies tournaments. Where-ever she plays, Ko is a great drawcard. 

Success in San Francisco

My wife Pam and I were in the San Francisco / East Bay area in April 2018 when she played in the LPGA tournament at Lake Merced in Daly City.

San Franciscans golf fans remember Lydia winning there as a teenager in the 2014 and 2015 Swinging Skirts events, but would the local papers have much to say on the Mediheal tournament at Lake Merced?

The Sports section of the San Francisco Chronicle is chock full of men’s basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football. Other sports get a mention if there is a big tournament on, and major results from the around the world feature in a summary section.

It was pleasant surprise to see a half-page devoted to Lydia’s chances before the tournament started. On the days following there were progress articles and then on the Monday after Ko’s win there was a whole page! 

Ups and downs

In 2019 her world ranking had dropped to 40 and then it was 29 in 2020. (Bear in mind, however, that over 1150 women are ranked!) There were problems with coaches who came and went, and she was also worried about her swing. Some critics claimed that she couldn’t match the big hitters on longer holes. Family interference was also mentioned as a reason for the fall of in her form.

But in August 2021 she is now back up to number 6. She is currently competing in the British Open at Carnoustie and with an even par in the first round she is five shots off the lead. That may not be a problem as Lydia Ko has a record of making big come backs in later rounds.