Golf

Make way for golf's newest darling

She looks like a kid, but swings like a seasoned pro.
GolfWeek BETH ANN BALDRY
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Lydia Ko went on Golf Channel after her historic victory and said she’d like to have the winner’s check so could buy a dog and give money to the poor. And she said it in that darling New Zealand accent. Could she be more impressive?

Her new nickname should be “Knockout.” As in, Ladies of the LPGA, you’ve just been KO’d.

At 15 years, 4 months and 2 days, Ko became the youngest player in LPGA history to win an event. The previous mark was set by Lexi Thompson last September at the Navistar LPGA Classic. Thompson was 16 years, 8 months and 8 days.

It wasn’t as if Ko sneaked in the back door to win the CN Canadian Women’s Open. She didn’t benefit from the collapse of other players, didn’t just squeak by with a one-shot victory.

No, Lydia Ko owned Sunday. She took that gorgeous swing and marched to victory at Vancouver Golf Club with a closing 5-under 67. Four consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-13 and another on No. 15 made her historic run a virtual lock by the time she reached the 18th.

Reminder: This girl can’t even drive a car.

As an amateur, Ko didn’t get to take home any money. Instead the $300,000 winner’s check went to runner-up Inbee Park, one of the hottest players on tour.

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YOU KNOW KO?

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When Ko won the U.S. Women’s Amateur two weeks ago, she was most excited about the promise of meeting her favorite Korean actor if she took home the trophy. Now that she has won an LPGA event, maybe she’ll get to be in a scene in his next film. Her giddiness at that moment during her interview at The Country Club in Cleveland reminded those in the room of her youthfulness. To watch her play, it’s easy to forget Ko is far from even high school graduation.

For years, Ko has dreamed of going to Stanford. At the Women’s Amateur, she conceded that after having visited Palo Alto, Calif., she realized the academic requirements there might be too difficult. She misses so much school back home in New Zealand that teachers sometimes mark her absent out of habit even when she’s in class. She began looking at UCLA and Pepperdine as options.

Now that Ko has won on the LPGA Tour, however, it’s difficult to imagine her ever wearing a college golf uniform. She could shock the world by sticking to her plan, but the reality is that it’s unlikely.

Ko insisted after her victory in Canada that she had no plans to turn professional.

“After winning this, my career, future plans haven’t changed,” Ko said.

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WE LOVE WIE

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There’s still so much to learn in amateur golf, she said. While that may be true, her young mind hasn’t had a chance to process what just happened. The pressure that will follow from various constituents to rush life will be new territory. It will be interesting to see how she responds. Players must petition the LPGA to join the tour if they are younger than 18.

Two weeks ago, Ko named Michelle Wie and Thompson as the players whom she looks up to in the professional game. Today, Wie tweeted about how impressed she was with “Koh.” Safe to say, Wie won’t make that mistake again. Ko will be a familiar name on the LPGA Tour for many years to come.

“All I have to say is that was one of the most impressive rounds of golf I have ever watched,” tweeted playing partner Stacy Lewis after the round.

Next up for Ko on the LPGA Tour is the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Hoylake. Wonder what kind of odds the British bookmakers will have on her there?

She’s money.

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