There is a short list of female athletes who dominate the sport they play. Serena Williams obviously comes to mind. So does Simone Biles. And soon enough, if she continues to excel like she has early in her career, New Zealand’s golf prodigy Lydia Ko might be on that list.
At just twenty years of age, Lydia Ko is already one of the best female golfers in the world. At the age of fifteen Ko became the youngest golfer to win an LPGA tournament. At age seventeen she became the youngest number one ranked player in the world. At age eighteen Ko became the youngest ever winner of a women’s Major. And Ko is currently competing at the Canadian Open in Ottawa, Ontario from August 24-27.
Despite all her early success, Ko has learned to embrace every moment and treat every day as a learning opportunity, growing both as person and as a golfer.
In 2012, after dominating the amatuer citcuit and winning the Australian Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur championships, Ko faced a lot of pressure to turn professional. But due to her desire to embrace every opportunity and continue to learn everything she can, Ko desided there was no rush in turning pro.
“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.”
Eventually, though, the LPGA waived its minimum-age requirement, allowing Ko to go pro and join the tour in 2014. Playing with older women forced Ko to mature quickly, both as an golfer and as a person.
“Being on tour has helped me talk and think in a perspective that’s not how a 19-year-old would, but how a 25-year-old would,” Ko said. “It’s grown me not only as a player, but as a person. Golf is not only a huge aspect of my career and what I do as a job, but it’s a huge aspect in me growing as a person.”
As Ko continues to grow as a golfer and a person, she is determines to take it one day at a time and embrace every moment of her career. It’s easy to get lost in the glory of being the youngest Major winner or world number one, but at the end of the day golf is just a sport and her happiness is what matters most.
“People say I have too much fun,” Ko says. “I’m always trying to have a good time. It’s a big goal of mine to keep having fun and be positive. I think that’s so important because we’re trying to play this game for not only now. I stay focused on the shot when I’m about to hit it, but outside of that I’m trying to enjoy it the most I can. I have a pretty big laugh too so when I laugh, everyone hears and they’re like, ‘Aren’t you having too much fun?!’”
Perhaps that relaxed upbeat attitude is also why that’s why Ko pledged to retire at age thirty, saying:
“I want to retire when I’m still playing well, not because I can’t compete anymore, and 30 is better than 29. This is my fourth year on tour, [which would mean I’ll have been] playing 15 years. That’s enough.”
Regardless of what happens at the Canadian Open this weekend or any Major down the road, Ko is already a force to be reckoned with at just age twenty. If Ko continues to improve and fulfills her wish of playing professionally for 15 years, perhaps when she does retire at age thirty her name will be mentioned right beside Serena on that short list of dominant female athletes.
Author Bio: Oren Weisfeld