Lydia Ko is a New Zealand teen golf prodigy who became a force in amateur golf - and in some professional events - by the age of 12.
Date of birth: April 24, 1997
Place of birth: Seoul, South Korea
Wins in Pro Tournaments
LPGA Tour: 3
Ladies European Tour: 1
Korean LPGA: 1
(Note: Ko has an additional victory on the ALPG.)
2012 U.S. Women's Amateur
Significant Amateur Wins
• 2011 Australian Women's Stroke Play Championship
• 2011 New Zealand Women's Stroke Play Championship
• 2011 New Zealand Women's Match Play Championship
• 2012 Australian Women's Amateur
• 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur
Lydia Ko: "I have to work hard, which sometimes can be boring but the end result makes me smile." (As quoted by harbourgolf.co.nz)
- In 2011 Ko became the first golfer to win both the Australian Women's Stroke Play and the New Zealand Women's Stroke Play championships in the same year.
- Ko is the youngest golfer, male or female, to win a professional event on a significant pro tour (one that awards world ranking points). Ko was 14 years old when she won the Bing Lee Samsung Women's NSW Open near Sydney, Australia, an event on the ALPG Tour.
- In 2012, at age 15, Ko became the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour, claiming the trophy at the CN Canadian Women's Open.
- Ko, in 2013, became the first New Zealand golfer to win the New Zealand Women's Open and, at age 15, the youngest-ever winner in an LET tournament.
Lydia Ko Biography
Lydia Ko was born in Korea, but at age 4 her parents moved the family to New Zealand, and Ko represents New Zealand in international competitions.
You'd expect that a golfing phenom was born to parents who were golf fanatics themselves, but neither of Ko's parents played the game. Instead, it was an aunt in Australia who introduced little Lydia to the sport. She began playing golf at age 5.
Ko took to golf immediately, and improved so quickly that by age 8 she was already competing in the under-19 division at junior golf tournaments. Her first significant tournament victory happened at age 11 when she won the 2009 North Island Women's U19 Championship in New Zealand.
It was in 2010 that Ko really started gaining notice. She won the New Zealand U23 and was low amateur at the New Zealand Women's Open (tied for seventh) that year, plus represented New Zealand in the World Team Amateur Championships.
In 2011, at age 13, Ko became the first golfer to pull off the Aussie-Kiwi stroke play double, winning both the Australian Women's Stroke Play and New Zealand Women's Stroke Play titles.
And she very nearly won a significant professional tournament, the New South Wales Women's Open on the ALPG Tour. Ko led by one with one hole to play, but 3-putted the final green to lose by a stroke.
Ko reached No. 1 in the world amateur rankings in 2011, and looked ready to hold that spot for some time to come.
For example, a year after blowing the NSW Women's Open, Ko rectified that mistake by winning the same tournament in 2012. At age 14, she became the youngest winner of a pro tournament on a significant professional tour.
Also in 2012, Ko won both the Australian Women's Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur championships. By the time she reached the U.S. Am, Ko had turned 15, and she was the second-youngest winner ever of that trophy. She also played in her first professional major in 2012, the U.S. Women's Open, finishing as low amateur.
Following her victory at the U.S. Women's Amateur, Ko said she was in no rush to turn pro, planned to remain an amateur for the forseeable future, and wanted to attend college. "There are so many things to learn as an amateur," Ko said. "Some people say, 'oh, do you want to go professional?' And I'm like, no, I want to go to college."
Two weeks later Ko won the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open, becoming the youngest-ever winner on the LPGA Tour. Even after that, she reiterated her plans: "I'll still remain an amateur and then finish high school and then go to college," she said.
In 2013, Ko won her national open, the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open, a tournament cosanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and the ALPG. She became, at age 15, the youngest-ever winner of an LET event, plus the first New Zealander to win the New Zealand Women's Open.
And back at the Canadian Women's Open in 2013, Ko repeated as champion with a tournament-record score. In so doing, she became the first amateur to win two LPGA Tour events. Later in 2013, Ko announced she was turning pro, and in October of 2013 the LPGA waived its minimum-age requirement, allowing Ko to join the tour in 2014.
She made her debut as a pro golfer at the 2013 LPGA CME Titleholders, finishing 21st. In her second event as a pro - the KLPGA co-sponsored Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters - Ko won. Ko's first season as an LPGA Tour member was 2014, and her first win that year happened at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic three days after her 17th birthday.