Date: January 31, 2011

Thirteen year-old Ko launched into spotlight

The average 13 year old in Melbourne is heading back to the books this week to start the first term of school for 2011. Not Lydia Ko. The 13 year old Auckland resident, in Melbourne for this week&aposs Handa Women&aposs Australian Open, is sharpening her game to play against the best in the world at Commonwealth Golf Club. But for Ko it&aposs about having fun, albeit in serious surroundings. “Golf is really fun for me – other 13 year olds would like to play and just have fun with friends but I really enjoy playing golf,” Ko said. “My school mates say golf is boring and they say mini-golf is boring but I enjoy it.” Ko, at such a tender age, has her mother to travel with her around the tournament circuit. “Mum just lives at home and takes me to golf. Most of the time my Mum comes with me to tournaments but my Dad would like to come too but he can&apost because of work but he&aposd really like to watch me play,” she said. It&aposs not surprising why. Her average drive is around 220 metres (at 13) and she flew to prominence at the recent Bing Lee Samsung NSW Women&aposs Open where she finished runner-up. Despite her obvious ability, her family has ensured she does not put her physical development into overdrive – she needs to grow as a 13-year-old grows. Advised against spending time in the gym at her age, Ko uses a resistance training program designed by US Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick where her flexibility is helped through the use of elasticated ropes and harnesses. A keen student with academic talent, Ko is an admirer of Stanford student Michelle Wie and is keen to combine her studies and golf to give her more skills off the golf course. “I want to, and if it&aposs possible I will. Golf will always come before studies though. Sports Science might be good so I can help look after myself on course.” Asked when she has time to be 13 year old girl, she is philosphical. “I think I&aposm both. I think when I&aposm on course I should be like one of them and play my game. Back at home – watching TV and just chill out and text people like any 13 year old.” Her precocious talent and admiration for Michelle Wie has given her an appetite to compete against the men if the opportunity arose. “Yes if I could play a big tournament against the guys, I would. I&aposd be a little bit nervous but I&aposd be honoured to get the chance.” So when does she stop living and breathing golf? “When I&aposm relaxing or eating, I try to leave golf behind not think about it.” A tough assignment for someone who combines 35-40 hours work on the golf course with her schooling each week. Over the course of last weekend, Ko played two and a half rounds at Commonwealth to begin her preparations. Playing off 5.8, Ko has found she has to work even harder in certain competitions. “I shot five-under-par at Victoria Golf Club and only ended up with 35 stableford points,” she said. In her Handa Women&aposs Australian Open debut, Ko has some goals. “First it&aposs to make the cut and if I do that, then top 20 would be good.” Although she&aposs described it as one of the longer courses she&aposs played, few would bet against Ko giving it everything she has. It&aposs in her nature.