Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Lydia Ko faces first LPGA Tour

AFP, PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas

Lydia Ko of New Zealand kisses her trophy on the last day of the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters at the Miramar Golf & Country Club in New Taipei City on Dec. 8 last year.

Photo: AFP / Swinging Skirts 2013 World Ladies Masters

Lydia Ko has jumped to fourth in the world rankings as the LPGA season started yesterday, but the 16-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander has not adjusted to her lofty spot.

“Not at all,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something you kind of get used to.”

Ko was scheduled to play her first event as an LPGA Tour member starting yesterday at the US$1.3 million Bahamas LPGA Classic on Paradise Island.

And while she is starting her rookie campaign, Ko feels like anything but a novice after earning a spot among the elite women’s players in the world.

“I have this kind of feeling inside going, ‘I’m finally an LPGA rookie,’” Ko said. “Yeah, I guess things came really fast. I’m just really enjoying the moment.”

Ko played her first pro event at last year’s season-ending LPGA Titleholders event. Since then she has a new equipment deal and is working with a new coach, David Leadbetter, since her former coach would have been based in New Zealand for most of her season.

“A lot of people are like, suddenly big changes. After turning pro you’re doing this, this and this different,” she said. “But I love a challenge and I personally don’t like my coach being there at a tournament. I thought it would be better to get a coach near where I would be based.”

Ko, who is looking at making Orlando, Florida, her new home base, was paired with world No. 3 Stacy Lewis of the US, who was on hand to see Ko’s first title at the Canadian Women’s Open, and was excited to practice with Swedish veteran Suzann Pettersen.

“I can’t believe it,” Ko said. “I was watching Suzann hit some balls, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m actually hitting next to Suzann.’”

“I played with Stacy for the first time at the US Open [in 2012] and I was really nervous. It’s the same feeling, but to kind of have known her a little better than I did two years ago, it kind of makes it more better and more relaxed,” she added.

Ko said she was shocked at some of the reaction to her changes back in New Zealand.

“I was so surprised. I didn’t even know it would make a story, but it was like big news in New Zealand,” she said. “I guess a lot of people gave me advice saying this is what happens when you’re up there. It’s not always going to be good. There is going to be negatives, as well.”

“I kind of tried to go past it then. I talked to a couple other players and they supported me. I had to do what was the best for me and my situation, and a lot of other people gave me support in that as well,” Ko added.

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