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.