Ko’s cross­road – golf or col­lege?


Ly­dia Ko, the 16- year- old golf won­der from Auck­land, is fac­ing an un­usu­ally tick­lish prob­lem.

Should she turn pro now and earn the mil­lions of dollars await­ing her, or should she put thoughts of a golf ca­reer on hold and make sure she gets a good ed­u­ca­tion, pos­si­bly at an Amer­i­can col­lege? I hope she turns pro soon. Over the past 18 months, Ko has played a limited sched­ule of pro­fes­sional events and has earned more than US$1 mil­lion (NZ$1.28m) in prize­money.

But she has ac­cepted none of it be­cause she is still an am­a­teur.

Her world rank­ing is al­ready well in­side the top 20, and she has played only 23 pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments in her life.

The world No 1, In­bee Park, by com­par­i­son, has played 64 over the past two years and the No 2, Stacey Lewis, 54.

If Ko played a full sched­ule, she would be al­most cer­tainly be nes­tled in­side the top 10, maybe the top five.

So far this year Park has earned US$2.2m (NZ $2.8m) and Lewis $1.4m (NZ$1.7m). That’s the sort of the sort of money Ko is turn­ing her back on.

Ko must soon de­cide whether to ap­ply for her pro­fes­sional card, which she would cer­tainly be granted de­spite her ex­treme youth, or opt for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.

Her par­ents have spo­ken of her at­tend­ing an Amer­i­can col­lege.

Nor­mally some­one of her abil­ity would get a golf schol­ar­ship at a pres­ti­gious Amer­i­can col­lege, but would Ko want that?

She would prob­a­bly re­main an am­a­teur if she went the Amer­i­can col­lege way, and she is so much bet­ter than other col­le­giate am­a­teurs that there would be lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion for her.

Many peo­ple take this line of logic: you study to get a good job to earn money to pay your way through life.

If Ko can skip the study and go straight into the big money, why pro­long the process?

Oth­ers sug­gest she should worry about her de­vel­op­ment as a per­son and put her ed­u­ca­tion first, that golf can wait.

I feel she should turn pro now. Who knows what’s around the cor­ner?

Some golfers suf­fer in­juries or lose their con­fi­dence, and their form de­clines dra­mat­i­cally.

Ko might also look at her friend Michelle Wie, a sen­sa­tional teenage golfer a decade ago.

Wie trav­elled the col­lege route and is now a pro, but has never re­alised her po­ten­tial.

The money await­ing Ko enor­mous.

Be­sides the mil­lions of dollars in prize­money, she would be

is guar­an­teed mil­lions more in spon­sor­ships and en­dorse­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

She is a very level-headed per­son, al­most fright­en­ingly so.

But clearly she loves golf. Surely she should strike now, get on the women’s pro tour full­time, and see just how good she can be. The signs are pro­pi­tious. She has not missed the cut in any of her 23 pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments.

She was the youngest win­ner of a pro­fes­sional women’s event and also the youngest win­ner on the North Amer­i­can LPGA tour, the real lit­mus test of women’s golf.

Ko is ob­vi­ously the real deal. It’s time to make a full com­mit­ment.

She’ll earn buck­et­loads of money and with the ex­pe­ri­ence she will get while trav­el­ling, and in deal­ing with the busi­ness and cor­po­rate worlds, she will ma­ture quickly any­way.


Ca­reer choice: Ly­dia Ko dur­ing her bril­liant de­fence of the Cana­dian Open ti­tle last week­end.

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