'Cool' Ko unfazed at pressure of turning pro
WELLINGTON - Agence France-Presse
She announced her long-awaited decision on social media Wednesday, saying she planned to make her professional debut at next month's season-ending LPGA tour event in Florida. AFP PhotoTeenage golfing prodigy Lydia Ko said Thursday that turning professional would put her under greater pressure, but it was a "cool" career step she felt ready to take.
Amid warnings from pundits to avoid "sharks" lurking around the professional golf circuit, the 16-year-old New Zealander said the time was right to relinquish her amateur status, as most of her appearances were at pro events anyway.
"Looking back to this year, I only played one amateur tournament... all of the others were pro tournaments," she said in a statement released via New Zealand Golf.
"I was enjoying my time out there playing with other professionals, so I thought it would be a cool route to take." There has been speculation about when Ko would join the paid ranks since she became the youngest ever winner of a professional golf tour event in 2012, when she claimed the New South Wales Open in Australia at the age of 14.
She announced her long-awaited decision on social media Wednesday, saying she planned to make her professional debut at next month's season-ending LPGA tour event in Florida.
However, she must first receive a dispensation to play from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, as the organisation usually restricts membership to golfers aged 18 and over.
Ko, who was unable to collect around US$2 million in prize money and millions more in endorsements
as an amateur, said playing for financial reward would undoubtedly mean more pressure.
"On the pro tour, one putt is a couple of thousand dollars," she said. "Those will be huge differences but I think I will really enjoy playing as a professional.
"I think there will be more pressure, more than I've been getting. In saying that, in the last couple of months people have been expecting lots because I won a professional tournament and stuff like that." Ko, who has won four professional events and is ranked fourth in the world, is currently managed by her parents and has not formalised a deal with a major management group.
She has yet to finalise her coaching team or decide where she will be based, although the Korean-born teenager said she would continue to represent New Zealand, which has been her home since she was six.
Tiger Woods' former caddy Steve Williams, another New Zealander, warned Ko there would be no shortage of hangers-on trying to feed off her success.
"There are a lot of people who circle out there like sharks trying to make an income," he told TVNZ.
"You've got trainers, you've got psychologists, you've got dieticians, you've got coaches, you've got managers, a lot of people have big entourages and it's well known that a lot of these people are in it for the wrong reasons." He said commercial obligations to sponsors could also prove distracting, citing Michelle Wie -- who turned professional amid great fanfare just before her 16th birthday but has since struggled -- as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong.