Lydia Ko Joins the LPGA
It hasn’t surprised us that Lydia Ko’s petition to join the women’s golf tour as a professional has been granted. We felt pretty sure about it, but just didn’t know when it would happen. For us, the onlookers, it looked like a slam dunk – after all, what could commissioner Michael Whan say? Actually, our viewpoint aside, he could have said plenty, and for reasons not known to us. Whan has been given the responsibility of protecting the LPGA, and it’s his decision alone to allow a teenager to join a serious group of professional competitors on a weekly basis.
For Whan, who in the end, did grant Ko’s petition after denying it once before, there are parallel considerations to the golf itself, in fact, an entire composite profile of a young player’s maturity when she is subjected to the pressures of golf at a grown woman’s level. Not only that, but how will a person who can’t even drive yet (the four-wheeled kind) respond to the media, or to the natural sideshows that follow the tour? Will it hurt the tour, or will it hurt them? Will we see burn-outs or breakdowns in people who should be enjoying the last of their childhood, a time that will never come again? Does anybody really know how such an early entrance into the professional world affected players like Michelle Wie?
I guess that it depends on the “child.” Lydia Ko made the petition difficult to refuse, and will begin as a new pro in 2014, as the tour is ending for this year anyway. She is the first since Lexi Thompson to win prior to the entrance of age of eighteen, and she’s won several times in high-profile events on multiple tours, reaching a ranking of no. 4 worldwide. These wins include two Canadian Opens, a Samsung and New Zealand Open.
The most important thing, though, is that she did it while remaining personally stable, with a style of behavior that is a credit to the tour she wishes to join. She’s good for it – she wins – she’s in.
Why would Whan otherwise hesitate? Along with the maturity factor, Whan knows perfectly well that there are more coming, and he’s not about to end up with a professional junior high tour. Next in line might be a Miss Brooke Henderson from Smith Falls, Ontario who’s doing a bunch of winning she wasn’t expected to do. It seems these days that some of the best super-kids are either winning in Canada, or coming from Canada.
The top line or two of the resume says it all – 2013 Royale Cup Canadian Women’s Amateur Champion, 2013 Women’s Western Amateur Champion, 2013 CN Future Links Champion, and much the same for 2012 and beyond. The list goes on to a second page, single-spaced.
Henderson’s model is Morgan Pressel, which gives us an idea of her fierce competitive nature. She is described by one columnist as a “shot-making assassin,” despite a courteous and seemingly professional demeanor. She was shooting 67s from the back tees not that far into her teens, has an absolutely wicked club head and ball speed, and is able to hold her concentration and behavior under duress.
Ok Mike, what are you going to do about this one when she comes knocking at your doo?. You know there’s a tidal wave of adolescent greatness out there, from the programs your tour helped to establish. If you let Brooke in, what are you going to do when Charley Hull calls? I don’t know how I’d handle that. Certainly, the quality golf is there, undeniable – maybe a whole lot of character references and psychological testing – maybe turn them loose for a few weekends against each other, and see who cracks. Glad it’s your call, not mine.