'I've realised how important it is to be patient and to believe in myself'
Lydia Ko moved to World No. 1 on February 2, 2015. At 17 years, nine months and nine days, she was the youngest player to ever reach the summit of the Rolex rankings.
By this point, Ko had nine wins to her name – five LPGA, one LET, two ALPG Tour and one KLPGA. And she wasn’t yet old enough to drive in her native New Zealand.
She has since added 12 more titles, including two major championships, to her CV.
In 2017, Ko notched up 100 starts on the LPGA Tour. Of those 100, she had 14 wins, 12 runner-up finishes, and a further 10 3rd-place finishes – a top-3 finish every third tournament.
Born Bo-Gyung Ko in Seoul in 1997, she is still only 21 and suffering her worst title drought as a professional.
Since July 2016, when she won the Marathon Classic, she has one win to her name – the 2018 Mediheal Championship. That victory ended a tough period in her life, in which she had changed coaches and caddies on numerous occasions.
Her domination of the women’s game might be on sabbatical, but Ko just sees it as an improvement of those around her.
“The level of play on the LPGA is getting higher and higher, which means it is becoming tougher to win,” the World No. 17 told LG. “But, as any professional will tell you, you can’t be concentrating on others. It’s all about your own game.”
Most sports have rare talents that are worthy of high status in their teenage years. Think Pele, think LeBron James, think Martina Hingis. Ko can rank herself among the best of them.
“I feel very fortunate for the things that have happened in my career so far. Although, because of these things, expectations did become very high for me. I tried to embrace every moment and take it all in as a learning experience.
“I’ve been very lucky to have a strong support team around me, to help me through these times.
“It’s been so much fun playing on the LPGA and travelling all around the world. I think throughout the times on tour, and through golf, I’ve been able to learn more about myself and I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love.”
One thing missing from Ko’s win list is an Olympic gold medal. In 2016, golf made its long-awaited return to the the Games in Rio De Janeiro and Ko was one of the high-profile players who made the trip to represent their country.
She would eventually finish five behind Inbee Park to take silver, but she plans to go one better in Tokyo next year.
“I would love to be able to win the gold medal at the Olympics as it will not only mean a lot to me and my team but will be a huge honour to be able to bring a gold for our country.”
But first, the goal is to win a third major to add to the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championships already in her trophy cabinet.
“I know the more times I put myself in contention and more consistently I play, there will be opportunities that come,” she added.
“I try to always have a positive mindset when I am out playing, but I feel the more times I play on tour, I’ve realised how important it is to be patient and to believe in myself.”