That big, scary place that all teenagers are sup­posed to be pre­par­ing for to en­sure a fu­ture.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS FEATURES -

But what if you’re world num­ber one in your cho­sen sport, an Olympic medal­list, have ma­jor spon­sors lin­ing up to have you en­dorse their prod­ucts, plus mil­lions of dol­lars in prize money all be­fore your 20th birth­day? While I've re­signed my­self to the fact that th­ese things will prob­a­bly re­main the stuff of day­dreams, this is the re­al­ity for 19 year old megas­tar Ly­dia Ko.

While my en­try into the so called ‘real world' has meant a hefty stu­dent loan, learn­ing to live on mince 5 days a week ev­ery so of­ten, and most re­cently, strug­gling to find a flat in the Auck­land hous­ing mar­ket. While I doubt Ly­dia has been faced with this par­tic­u­lar set of chal­lenges, I very much doubt that life as a global sport­ing phe­nom­e­non has been all smooth sail­ing.

If my ex­pe­ri­ences are any­thing to go on, this pe­riod can be tur­bu­lent at the best of times. So far, (prob­a­bly thank­fully) the me­dia hasn't shown the slight­est bit of in­ter­est in me and the de­ci­sions I make, so I can only imag­ine how dif­fi­cult it must be to have ev­ery de­ci­sion an­a­lysed and dis­cussed world­wide. Case and point be­ing Ly­dia's re­cent de­ci­sions to split with her caddy and coach­ing team, plus switch club man­u­fac­turer. Com­ments sec­tions on re­ports of th­ese changes have been flooded with peo­ple toss­ing in their two cents worth, re­gard­less of the fact that they likely know very lit­tle about the rea­sons be­hind th­ese choices, and have prob­a­bly never been in any­thing re­sem­bling a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in their lives.

Con­sid­er­ing the at­ten­tion that she at­tracts and the pres­sure that this must bring, the way Ly­dia han­dles her­self is ad­mirable. Ev­ery­one gets frus­trated by golf from time to time, that's the na­ture of the sport. The dif­fer­ence be­ing that if I were to toss a club or let a few choice words fly, at worst I might get a dis­ap­prov­ing look or word from an­other player. If Ly­dia were to do the same, it'd be front page news within min­utes.

Just in case the pres­sure of per­form­ing at the top of her game week af­ter week on Tour isn't enough, there has also been talk of Ko study­ing psy­chol­ogy ex­tra­mu­rally, hav­ing re­port­edly been ac­cepted into Korea Univer­sity. Even the thought of hav­ing both the tal­ent and the work ethic nec­es­sary to jug­gle the two makes me a lit­tle jeal­ous. I find it dif­fi­cult enough to find time or en­ergy to prac­tice at all dur­ing as­sign­ment and exam sea­sons, let alone play a 4 round tour­na­ment against the best play­ers in the world, but I guess for Ly­dia do­ing things that pre­vi­ously seemed al­most im­pos­si­ble shouldn't re­ally come as a sur­prise any more.

Per­son­ally, I find it par­tic­u­larly ad­mirable that Ko has man­aged to con­tinue to en­joy her­self through all of this and main­tain the re­laxed and cheer­ful at­ti­tude she has be­come known for. The pres­sure and scru­tiny, plus the un­doubted hangers-on and un­wanted ad­vice that ap­pears when big money is in­volved is sure to be drain­ing at times. I guess she's play­ing the game how it's sup­posed to be played, for fun and treat­ing ev­ery­thing else that comes with it as a bonus. Not a bad way to ap­proach mov­ing into the ‘real world' if you ask me.

The ‘real world' can be a fright­en­ing thought, whether you're a world class sportsper­son or not. But if Ly­dia ap­proaches what­ever her ver­sion of the ‘real world' is in the same way as she ap­proaches a tour­na­ment – calmly, metic­u­lously and with a smile – I can't imag­ine her find­ing any­thing other than suc­cess. I think I need to take a leaf out of her book, both on and off the course!

Ly­dia Ko plays her shot out of the bunker dur­ing the CME Group Tour Cham­pi­onship at Tiburon Golf Club on Novem­ber 19, 2016 in Naples, Florida.

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