Lydia Ko‘s making all the right moves. Fresh off her Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters victory last week in Taiwan, she’s signed a management and marketing contract with IMG Worldwide, the global sports management team whose first client was Arnold Palmer.
The 16-year old New Zealander joins an IMG stable that includes fellow LPGA players Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda, Beatriz Recari, Michelle Wie and newly minted LPGA player Jaye Marie Green, who won LPGA Q-School on Dec. 8.
Ko, who edged past South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and moved up to the 4th Rolex slot with her Swinging Skirts victory, is poised to dominate women’s pro golf in the coming season, and beyond.
Her victory at the 2012 Women’s New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour, which made her the youngest winner in golf history at the time, set in motion a trajectory toward the top of the ranks that’s only gained momentum over the past year.
Throughout 2013 Ko’s displayed a level of athletic talent that’s nothing short of amazing. Her back-to-back 2012 and 2013 victories at the CN Canadian Women’s Open and her challenge to Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at the 2013 Evian Championship further propelled her toward the inevitable shift from amateur to pro.
The challenge Ko faces now is devising an effective management strategy for her career that will allow her to concentrate on playing her game and filter out the distractions and demands that come with athletic stardom. That’s IMG’s job now.
Ko’s going to need IMG’s expertise. Following her Swinging Skirts win, which netted her about $180K, High Performance Sports New Zealand (HPSNZ), which has been supporting Ko’s international travel expenses, is reassessing their commitment. HPSNZ is committed to supporting athletes headed for the 2016 Olympic Games. Ko will certainly compete, but HPSNZ is likely to reduce their level of support for Ko’s expenses between now and the Rio games as reallocate to other athletes.
Already a popular sports personality, the affiliation with IMG will broaden Ko’s commercial opportunities. Trans World International, IMG’s media division, is a major producer and distributor of televised sporting events. TWI annually produces more than 6000 hours of programming and distributes in multiple global markets. Look for Ko’s image to get even bigger and more prominent during the 2014 season, and beyond.
Look out, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, and Inbee Park. Here comes Lydia!