JUNIOR THOUGHTS: THE REAL WORLD
That big, scary place that all teenagers are supposed to be preparing for to ensure a future.
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.