Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Picture, if you will, a female golfing
phenom: an engaging teenager, of Korean descent, who has displayed prodigious
talent and marketable charisma.
You'd think Michelle Wie, right? But this isn't the mid-2000s. Nowadays, Lydia
Ko holds the distinction as the next big thing in the women's game.
On Tuesday, the 16-year-old Ko turned pro via YouTube, announcing her decision
with a slick yet unassuming post. In the nearly five-minute video, Ko is
goaded by fellow New Zealander and All Blacks rugby player Israel Dagg to turn
pro while the two play a very casual round. In the end, after sinking a long
putt, Ko quietly concedes "Ok. I'll do it." And with that, the announcement is
Ko is unlike Wie in that sense. She appears genuinely humble and reserved.
While Wie reveled in the attention of her prodigal status, publicly
speculating about a Masters berth and a potential victory over Tiger Woods, Ko
plays it cool.
Wie could have played a pivotal role in the women's game, as a genuine star
capable of on-course dominance and off-course ambassadorship. But she failed
at the former, rendering the latter irrelevant. Women's golf could still use
such a star. Inbee Park may get there through sheer mastery. She created a
significant buzz by winning the season's first three majors, but she has
cooled since, and so has the broader attention. Cheyenne Woods has the
magnetism, and the famous last name, but not yet the game.
Ko is the best bet.
For one, she's a proven winner. Currently the fourth-ranked women's golfer in
the world, Ko has never missed a cut in a professional tournament. She has
already posted four victories in professional tournaments, becoming the
youngest winner in LPGA Tour history at the Canadian Women's Open in 2012,
then winning the event again a year later. Last month, she finished runner-up
at the Evian Championship, the year's fifth and final major.
For another, she has a unique star quality; in that she is unique. She's soft
spoken, yet calmly confident. She's cool without trying. She wears large,
thick-rimmed glasses (with frames). She's like a young, authentic Kiwi hipster
with none of the steampunk pretense. In a way, she's the anti-Wie. And it
Ko plans to play her first event as a professional in late November at the
LPGA's CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla. She has filed a petition to
bypass the tour's minimum age requirement of 18, leaving her immediate
membership in the hands of commissioner Mike Whan.
There is precedent for early membership: as recently as two years ago Whan
granted such an exemption to Lexi Thompson. Whan will likely not make his
decision until the tour returns from its Asian swing in early November, but
he'd be wise to at least grant Ko's request by the time the new season kicks
off in January.
Ko is a promising future face of the LPGA Tour. She's a winner and she's
effortless nerd cool, which translates to potential star.
The Sports Network