Go Ko!

Teenage golf sensation — it’s not easy winning against the world

By Roger Childs for the Kāpiti Independent

New Zealand has had a few world class performances in the fiercely competitive arena of global golf. Bob Charles became the first Kiwi to win a major, in 1963 at the British Open, and Michael Campbell won the US Open, in 2005.

New Zealand triumphed in the 1992 World Amateur Teams’ Championship and in 2002 Craig Perks was victorious in the prestigious Players Championship. In the women’s game, there have been three victories since 1984 in the premier world teams’ event, the Queen Sirikit Cup.

However no New Zealand golfer has ever had a year on the world stage like Lydia Ko in 2012. The 15 year old amateur has taken the women’s golfing world by storm. She has won the Mark McCormack Medal as the world’s top ranked amateur, for the second year running, on the back of some remarkable results for one so young.

  • In winning the New South Wales Open at the age of 14 she became the youngest player in the world to win a professional tournament.
  • She won the Australian Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
  • She became the second youngest winner of the US Amateur Championship.
  • In the Queen Sirikit Cup she had the second lowest individual  score.
  • She was the top amateur in the Women’s British Open.

An extraordinary victory

“In terms of … golfing achievements, this is probably the most significant by a New Zealand female golfer”, according to NZ Golf chief executive Dean Murphy. He was talking about Ko’s sensational win in the Canadian Women’s Open in late August. Lydia Ko beat 19 of the world’s top 20 professional golfers by three shots in Vancouver and featured in sports page headlines around the world. Her four round score was 13 under par and she won a trophy almost as big as herself!

A highly focused teenager

Lydia Ko was born in South Korea but the family moved to New Zealand when she was four. She started playing golf a year later and from the start showed a determination to do well on the basis of relentless practice, supreme confidence and a steely focus.

“I have to work hard, which sometimes can be boring but the end result makes me smile,”she says.

 She has now become famous for her intense concentration when playing and her broad smile when she’s finished. She is also very modest with a nice touch in humour: at the prize giving of the recent British Open she remarked .. ”and I want to thank  the pros for putting up with me!”

As regards ambitions, she wants to stay an amateur for at least two years, succeed at her school studies and represent her country. ”One of my main goals in the next few years is building towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio.”  Few would bet against it. However what about Sportswoman of the Year in 2012?