Lydia Ko back in Canada after shocking world's best | Golf | CBC Sports

GolfLydia Ko back in Canada after shocking world's best

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 | 03:51 PM

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Phenom Lydia Ko won the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open at age 15 in Coquitlam, B.C. (Canadian Press) Phenom Lydia Ko won the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open at age 15 in Coquitlam, B.C. (Canadian Press)

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Lydia Ko is a year removed from her stunning victory at the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open at the Vancouver Golf Club. But is she better a year later and on the right track at age 16 to become the next big thing in women's golf?

EDMONTON -- There is no doubt this is a new day for teenage golf phenom Lydia Ko.

She's a year removed from her stunning victory at the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open at the Vancouver Golf Club. But is she better a year later?

How has she performed in the past 12 months since she became the youngest - at 15 years, four months - to capture an LPGA event? Is the South Korean-born, New Zealand-raised athlete still on track to become the next one to watch in women's golf?

After all, we sort of got sucked into the Michelle Wie hype 13 years ago, when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur at age 10. The big Wiesy turned pro in 2005, but has only two LPGA victories to her credit and hasn't won since the 2010 Canadian Women's Open.

Ko, on the other hand, continues to impress. Before her victory in Vancouver last year, she beat the pros at the 2012 Women's NSW Open in Sydney, Australia in late January. She followed up her defence in Sydney six months ago with a runner-up showing to Carolina Hedwall, the Swedish star who went 5-0-0 in Europe's Solheim Cup win last weekend.

Ko won the New Zealand Women's Open a few weeks later. Since then, she occasionally has dropped in on the LPGA tour. This will be her 10th LPGA start this year and her best finish was a third-place showing in the season's curtain-raising Women's Australian Open in February. 

She competed in the British Women's Open at St. Andrews. She took in some theatre afterwards with her Mother, Tina Hyon.

'New experience'

"I've really enjoyed the last year," the 16-year-old Ko said as she prepared for the 2013 Canadian Women's Open at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club on Tuesday.

"This has been a whole new experience for me. I've had the opportunity to experience a lot of difference courses. It doesn't feel like I've played in 10 already.

"It's been pretty special. It's been a whole different life as a teenager. It's been really cool."

For now, she will remain an amateur and let the pros compete for the money (last year, current World No. 1 Inbee Park finished second, three shots back of Ko, but picked up the $300,000 winner's cheque).

"I don't worry about the money," said Ko, who hasn't missed a cut in 22 pro starts. "My parents are the ones who think about money and the expenses."

Last year, Ko hinted at plans to attend college and maybe play collegiate golf. But her mother admitted last month that she had approached the LPGA to inquire about the process to seek a waiver for her daughter to play earlier than the tour's minimum age of 18.

Lexi Thompson became a member at age 17, a year after she won a 2011 event in Prattville, Alabama. England's 17-year-old Charley Hull also recently successfully petitioned the LPGA to earn her card before her 18th birthday in March.

"We're thinking about the right time to turn pro now," Ko said on Tuesday.

Not the only teenager

She won't be the only teenager in the field at the Canadian Women's Open. Hull, who beat veteran Paula Creamer in the Solheim Cup leadoff singles match for the victorious European side on Sunday, also will compete at Royal Mayfair.

"She obviously proved herself last week," Ko said. "She's obviously a great player. It's kind of nice not being the only [teenager] out here now."

Ko arrived early to get a feel for the tight Royal Mayfair layout. She also closely watched Park prepare on the putting practice green, and took notes.

"I could give her advice, but I don't think she really needs advice. She's a real good player," Park said.

Last year, when the unflappable Ko shocked the golf world, she remarked that her U.S. Amateur victory was bigger, even though she beat the world's top golfers. But a year later, her view has changed. 

"It's all the same now," said Ko, the world's top-ranked woman amateur and No. 19 on the Rolex World [pro] rankings. "I probably said that last year because I really wanted to win the U.S. Amateur. The Canadian Open was a huge surprise. It didn't really sink in at that moment. But when I look back on it right now, it was a really big week."

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