Golf: Lydia Ko misses ordinary teenage days

Golf: Lydia Ko misses ordinary teenage days
LYDIA KO: The New Zealand golf pro became the youngest world No. 1 last month.

She bops to music by One Direction, Lady Gaga and Rihanna, is hooked on social media, plays apps like Minion Rush and Candy Crush, and panics when she can't find her iPhone.

She loves dogs, even if she isn't allowed to keep one because her father and older sister have allergies.

She dreams of getting her driver's licence and concerned over her looks, she has ditched spectacles for contact lenses and wears her sister's ankle boots to conceal tan lines.

But, Lydia Ko is not an ordinary teenager.

The 17-year-old is the world's No. 1 woman golfer and the favourite for this week's HSBC Women's Champions at Sentosa Golf Club.

It is rarefied air, very few reach such heights and Ko has got to the top of her sport's Everest at such a tender age.

While "enjoy myself" and "have fun" are still her pet phrases, the Kiwi admitted to The New Paper yesterday that it has become a challenge to lead a normal life.

CHILL OUT

After the tournament's press launch at the Raffles City Convention Centre, Ko said: "I don't have much time off the course...

As I spend so much time outside, I just like to chill out and do interactive things off the course.

"When I find time, I like to go to the beach and just relax. I like to watch TV, just chill out.

I like to go on social media and talk to my friends back at home and that really gives me the feeling of being a 17-year-old.

"I'm missing those days, missing my friends. Just being able to go home is a big thing.

I won in Naples last year and I got to go home... I get to win and then go home, too, that's the biggest prize."

Wearing a red dress from Shanghai Tang, with a gold ring on one finger and a diamond-encrusted Rolex in the other hand, Ko blew kisses to onlookers and joined seven other golf stars, including Park Inbee, Michelle Wie and HSBC Women's defending champion Paula Creamer, on a catwalk at the convention centre yesterday.

Tattooed on her right wrist are the roman numerals signifying her first LPGA Tour win as a pro at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic last April - Ko has a total of 10 professional wins and three as an amateur.

These days, her entourage features world renowned golf coach David Leadbetter, a psychologist, a manager and her mum, who sometimes doubles up as her caddie.

Ko became golf's youngest world No. 1 last month and promptly added two more wins, at the Australian Open and at home at the New Zealand Open, swelling her prize money account to $4 million.

She said: "I don't think being world No. 1 as a 17-year-old has sunk in, yet.

"I don't know if it ever will. It's been my dream to be No. 1 and to be at that ranking right now is pretty awesome.

"Hopefully I'll continue to play consistently.

"The rankings can always change, just because I'm No. 1 doesn't mean I'm going to win every week.

All I can do is just focus on what I can do. That's the best I can do.

"My advantage is consistency in the long game. My greens in regulation statistics last year was 70-plus per cent.

I felt it was good, but there's also room for improvement.

"Also, better course management, how to get out of trouble and putting, because it's the most important part of the game.

"You don't have a good long-game day, putting can save you.

If you hit good shots, you get rewarded."

Like any world No. 1, Ko was the golfer in most demand yesterday for interviews.

Almost pleading, the clearly jet-lagged teen asked aloud: "Is this the last one?"

But the bubbly girl continued to field questions and accept autograph requests, always smiling.

Speaking like a mature pro with years of experience under her belt, she said: "Hopefully, even if I'm not world No. 1 for long, I can be a player somebody will recognise and say, 'That's Lydia Ko', that would be a dream come true."

Impressive, for a 17-year-old.

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Mar 4, 2015.
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