Sweet 16: Will Lydia Ko Miss It?

It comes as absolutely no surprise that Lydia Ko has submitted a petition to the LPGA to waive it’s age limit and admit her to the LPGA Tour.  It does come as something of a surprise that Ko’s mother, Tina Hyon, made the media aware of this petition through The Golf Channel.   Why use The Golf Channel as her daughter’s publicist?

Why the hype?  Ko’s not scheduled to play in an LPGA event for six weeks.  The LPGA won’t act on the petition immediately.  Commissioner Mike Whan is traveling back from the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event today and not available for comment.

Who is Mom trying to upstage?  And why?  Is Mom actually trying to enhance Ko’s media visibility for commercial gain?  Could this be all about money?

Lydia Ko is an amazing athlete.  Anyone who’s enjoyed one of her performances, competing against the likes of Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen, comes away awestruck.  I’m an unabashed Lydia Ko fan.  This isn’t about Ko’s athletic ability, and it isn’t about her competitive viability.  I’ve wondered, myself, how long she and her mother-handler would be able to continue to walk away from those big purses that have been passing through her hands and dripping down to the players just below her on the leaderboard for the past 2 years.

Ko’s achievements and accomplishments have been well chronicled.  She’s a child prodigy and a teen phenom.  She’s the 2012 & 2013 CN Canadian’s Open champion.  She went head-to-head, or shot-to-shot, against Suzann Pettersen, one of the most aggressive and unforgiving competitors on the LPGA Tour.  Ko never faltered and almost won the 2013 Evian Championship.  She’s entered 25 pro events and never missed a cut.  She’s ranked 5th in the world of women’s golf, between So Yeon Ryu and Na Yeon Choi.  Her resume more than qualifies her to take this step  She doesn’t need to be hyped by her mother.

Ko, herself, let us know this was an inevitable step that was getting close when, during her post-round interview at The Evian Championship, she casually promised that the next time we saw her she would be playing as a pro.  Her next scheduled event was the CM Group Titleholders, November 21-24, in Naples, Florida.  We’ve all been sitting back and waiting, knowing this was coming.

I personally welcome Lydia Ko to the ranks of professional golf.  Make no mistake about that.  Covering her athletic performances is a joy for me.  But like other teen pros, Ko will face challenges, because there are demands other than athletic performance that come with the pro territory.  The LPGA has an age limit for good reasons and has waived that rule for other teenagers who have gone before Ko as special exceptions.  Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, and Charley Hull all could tell stories about the struggle to balance the demands of a professional athletic career and the challenges of being a teenager in the 21st century.

Lydia Ko’s set to make a lot of money in the next few years.  She’ll miss some parts of late adolescence too.  I hope her mother is as sensitive to the importance of a balance between public and private life for Lydia as she apparently is to Ko’s commercial viability.

Tags: LPGA Lydia Ko

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