Lydia Ko defends title, takes firm stand on amateur standing… for now
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA
All systems Ko!

All systems Ko!

I know this is old news, but I haven’t had time to post about Lydia Ko’s impressive victory until now — better late than never, right? — and it deserves a few hundred words at the very least.

The 16-year-old phenom from New Zealand cruised to a five-shot victory at the Canadian Women’s Open for the second straight year — and at different venues, no less. Last week, Ko fired a six-under 64 at Royal Mayfair in the final round to successfully defend her title and basically school the top pros in the world. 

“I’m pretty surprised, but I played some really good golf out there, so I was really happy about that,” Ko said, via the AP. “My goal today was to shoot 5 under and just play my own game. If somebody else shot better, then I can’t do anything about it.”

With four professional wins under her belt, including two on the LPGA, the looming question remains: When will Ko turn pro?

“I’ve got some people above me like my mom and dad, they’re the boss,” Ko said. “They’re going to help me to make the right decision and to turn pro at what time. I think as I’m only 16 still, it’s quite hard to make huge decisions. When I turn pro it’s like a job. Money is all about it and everything like that, every shot counts. Yeah, I think my parents and New Zealand golf they’re all going to have a say, and hopefully we’ll make a really good decision on when I will turn pro.”

That makes sense. After all, she’s still a minor!

Ko made it clear she isn’t bothered by giving up another $300,000 paycheck because of her amateur status.

“I don’t care. I don’t care,” Ko said. “I can say that a couple times more, if you want.”

How has she been able to afford traveling around the world — accompanied by her parents, who don’t work — to compete in tournaments? Well, unlike the system in the United States, many countries, like Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have government-backed golfing unions that oversee and fund the training and development of their most talented junior golfers. These programs take generous donations from successful graduates and/or wealthy individuals.

Ko gets funding from New Zealand’s national program, which receives six-figure donations from David Levene, an elderly businessman, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Baldry.

In other words, it’s kind of a loophole for Ko to collect money for expenses and such, while still retaining her amateur status. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d love to see the U.S. adopt a similar program that would allow talented kids from lower-income families to realize their fullest potential.