Date: November 19, 2013
Author: New Zealand Golf

Ko makes pro debut this week

World No.5 Lydia Ko will make her professional debut this week at the CME Titleholders event in Florida on the LPGA Tour. The 16-year-old from the Gulf Harbour Country Club, who recently turned professional in a YouTube video with All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg, knows the world is watching her every move. Ko joins the professional ranks on the back of a remarkable 2013 season. She has won two titles (NZ Women’s Open and Canadian Open), finished runner-up twice (including at a major championship) and recorded nine top-10 finishes in professional events. The Pinehurst School student s amateur record is the best ever seen in the game of golf. There is no doubt that the six-year-old girl, who grew up learning the game and skipping the fairways at the Pupuke Golf Club on Auckland s North Shore, has come a long way in the past 10 years. There will be worldwide interest in Ko s professional career beginning this week at the Tiburon Golf Club. She can t wait to tee off alongside the other title winners from the LPGA Tour season in 2013. How are you feeling ahead of your professional debut this week at the CME Title Holders? I m really excited. It has been a long time coming. People have been asking about when I was going to turn pro for quite a long time now so it is nice to finally be playing as a professional. It is great to be playing in this event as I couldn’t play in it last year because of exams. It is great to be in the company of all the players who have won this year on the LPGA Tour. Are there any nerves ahead of this week as you look to back up your glittering amateur career? I know that there will be a lot of expectation on me but I will just try to take it one tournament at a time and hopefully get off to a good start this week in Florida. Being the No.1 amateur in the world for a few years came with some pressure so that has helped prepare me for my pro career. The nice thing about this week is there is no cut so I will keep that streak alive [laughs] [of never missing a cut in a pro tournament]. I am always nervous going into a big tournament but it has worked out well so far. It is just another tournament and a good opportunity. You have just finished your exams, how much have you been able to practice for this tournament? Well not as much as I would have liked. I had a lot of study to catch up for my exams and I practiced as much as I could around that. It was also nice to have a break after playing a lot of golf this year. The past week has been about getting used to the course and the conditions here in Florida. I have fine-tuned a few things in my game and I am looking forward to playing again. What is the course like at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida? It is a good challenge. It is a Greg Norman design and he is well-known for designing hard golf courses. There are a lot of water hazards and the greens are pretty testing with a lot of undulations. It is coming into winter over here but it is still really warm which is nice. Florida is a really beautiful place. It is going to be a privilege to play alongside all the tour winners from this year. More than 100,000 people watched the #kogoespro video; you must have been blown away by the response? Yeah it was crazy. The idea to do something totally different with the announcement [of turning pro] was great and to see how many people have watched it is really cool. I am humbled by the amount of support I have had. It has been really nice talking to a few of the players [of the LPGA Tour]. They have been really welcoming and a few of them have said that they loved the video. It was amazing how everyone picked it up. It was a really fun day with Izzy [All Black Israel Dagg] and I hope we can do another one in the future. Izzy is a very nice guy and his golf swing was great. It would be great to play a proper game of golf with him because he is really funny. Looking back on 2013 it has been an amazing year. What stands out as your highlights? Well the first one that comes to mind is defending my title at the Canadian Open. When I won there last year I didn t have it coming and I didn t think I would do it again. It was an amazing week. To play the way I did in the final round was a really great day and something that I will always have fond memories of. The other big highlight was winning the NZ Open in Christchurch. There was a lot of talk about me that week and to win at home in front of a lot of people who have supported me over the years was a really special feeling. I cried when I made the last putt and I don t normally cry so I guess that showed how much it meant to me. I d love to defend my title there as well. You know that all of New Zealand is watching your progress in this event, and your career, that must be really special? Yeah it is. I am really proud to represent New Zealand on the world stage. It is always cool to get messages of support from all the people back home and know that they are cheering me on. A lot of people have played a huge part in getting me here. There are a lot of people to thank: my coach Guy [Wilson] and the team at iGolf, Sport New Zealand, New Zealand Golf, the Korean community, Pinehurst School, Sir David Levene, Gulf Harbour and Peninsula Golf Club. I appreciate all of the support they have given me. I will try to make them proud as a professional. Lydia s Record in Professional events in 2013 – 1st New Zealand Women’s Open – 2nd NSW Open – 3rd Australian Open – T4th JLPGA World Ladies Championship Salonpas Cup – T9th LOTTE LPGA Championship in Hawaii – T14th Thailand PGA (LPGA Tour event) – T25th and leading amateur Kraft Nabisco (major) – T17th LPGA Championship (major) – T4th Walmart NW Arkansas Championship – T36th U.S. Open Championship (major) – T7th Marathon Classic (LPGA Tour) – T42nd and joint leading amateur British Open (major) – 1st Canadian Open (first amateur to win back-to-back) – 2nd Evian Championship major championship in France