Lydia Ko earning spotlight at CN Canadian Women's Open
15-year-old amateur phenom nearly moved to Canada when she was younger
Imagine if Canada’s golf future not only encompassed 14-year-old whiz kid Brooke Henderson, but 15-year-old phenom Lydia Ko, too.
Back in 2003, when Ko’s family decided to move from Seoul, South Korea, they contemplated setting up in Canada because Ko’s older sister Sura was going to school here. But the Ko family decided on Auckland because of its weather.
The move to New Zealand certainly hasn’t hurt Ko’s development. While Henderson, of Smith Falls, Ont. has attracted plenty of attention in Canada for her outstanding work on the fairways this summer, Ko has been a worldwide sensation.
The teenage star continued to wow the golfing world at the CN Canadian Women’s Open on Friday. She carded a bogey-free 68 to snatch a share of the eight-under 36-hole lead with South Korean Chella Choi at the Vancouver Golf Club. Choi checked in with an impressive 64, the low round so far this week.
It will be interesting to see how the teenage whiz kid, the world’s No. 1-ranked woman golfer, handles the weekend pressure against a field that encompasses 48 of the top 50 LPGA Tour money leaders.
Ko is no stranger to beating the odds. In late January, at 14 years old, nine months and five days she became the youngest to capture a pro golf tour event when she won the New South Wales Open in Sydney on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf tour.
Henderson bested her a few months later when at 14, nine months and three days she won an event in Quebec on the less competitive CN Women’s Tour.
Ko, however, went on to become the second youngest to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur in Cleveland earlier this month. In early July, she learned a hard lesson when she appeared headed for a top-20 finish at the U.S. Women’s Open only to conclude with a double bogey, bogey, triple bogey final three holes.
"At the U.S. Open, everyone didn't have the greatest last round, but I shot three-under till 15," Ko said. "That showed that I was able to handle it along with the pros. So that kind of gives me a confidence. But New South Wales Open was an Australian Tour event, and the win helped me and gave me confidence that I could beat the pros. You never know what's going to win.
"We've still got two rounds to go, and there is still half the field [to finish on Friday]. Yeah, it's going to be helpful. I don't know what position I'll be after everyone's finished, but it will give me a boost."
If she can finish first on Sunday, Ko would become the first amateur to win an LPGA Tour event since JoAnne Carner in 1969.
Ko’s golf heroes just happen to be Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson. Wie turned pro a week before her 16th birthday. Thompson turned pro at 15 years, four months. But Ko believes she still has a couple more years before she’ll leave her amateur status behind.
Even though she has missed an entire term of her grade-11 year at her North Harbour school because she will play in more than 30 tournaments this year, Ko hopes to attend Stanford University in a couple of years like Wie did when she turned pro.
But she admitted school has taken a back seat recently, and she still has two big events left on her schedule, the British Women’s Open and the World Amateur.
"I printed a couple of papers and brought a few books," she said. "But to be honest, I haven't done much. Especially two weeks ago when I'm playing 34 holes, 35 holes [a day in the U.S. Women’s Amatuer]. It's pretty stressful. Doing extra work will probably kill me.
"I'm going to work hard. I've still got two years. I've got 99 per cent on my math exam, so that's not too bad. I'm not going to talk about that [the other subjects] with you."
Meanwhile, Henderson, the youngest to play in the Canadian Women’s Open, followed up her opening-round five-over 77 with a 76. The only Canadian to make the cut was Jessica Shepley of Oakville, Ont. A two-over 74 has her at three-over 147 after two rounds.
Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane made a double bogey on her closing hole to miss the three-over 147 cut by a shot.