The 17-year-old New Zealander is in the land of her birth this week for the $2 million LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, the only LPGA Tour stop in South Korea each year. It will be Ko’s first appearance at a tournament held in South Korea.
|South Korean-born teen golfer Lydia Ko (AP-Yonhap)|
“I think it’s going to be an awesome week, and I can’t wait for the Thursday round,” Ko said at the pre-tournament press conference at the Ocean Course of Sky72 Golf and Resort, the site of the four-day event.
“I heard a lot of good things about this tournament and about this course from other players,” she said. “The first time is going to be the most memorable time. It’s great to come back to the country where I was born and have so many people come out and watch.”
Ko has put together an outstanding resume on the LPGA Tour in recent years. In 2012, she won the CN Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur and defended the title the following year while still playing as an amateur. She turned professional last October, and in 2014, her first full season as a pro, Ko has won twice and posted nine other top-10 finishes in 21 starts.
Her all-around excellent play has placed the teenager at the No. 3 spot in the world rankings, behind Stacy Lewis of the United States and Park In-bee of South Korea. Ko was No. 2 as recently as August before Park, former No. 1, zipped past her.
Ko said Lewis asked her last week, point blank, if she wanted the No. 1 ranking. Lewis isn’t playing this week, while Park, who got married on Monday, will be in action.
The teenager said it was a shame Lewis isn’t here because she wanted to go up against the best. Ko also said she isn’t concerned about leapfrogging the two veterans ahead of her.
“I am not really thinking about (becoming) world No. 1 right now,” Ko said. “I want to go out there and have some fun and put up good scores. I am just going to think about my game. If it happens, it’s great.”
Teen trying to enjoy golf
Kim Hyo-joo, the South Korean teenage golf sensation who captured her first LPGA major championship last month, said Tuesday her life has changed a great deal since that monumental victory.
As she got ready to compete at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship this week in Incheon, Kim said she had in particular sensed heightened expectations following her victory at the Evian Championship in France in September. Instead of feeling burdened by them, the 19-year-old said she would try to relish the attention she’s getting.
“I played (in South Korea) two days after the Evian Championship, and I could feel that the fans’ cheers got louder than before,” said Kim. “And people kept asking me what I wanted to accomplish next. I felt like I had to keep playing well to meet expectations, but at the same time, I’d just like to enjoy playing golf.”
At the Evian Championship, Kim stunned World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb to win her maiden LPGA major with a birdie on the 72nd hole.
In the process, she became the third South Korean to win an LPGA major as a non-member of the tour.
Kim enters this week’s tournament on a roll. She captured her fourth KLPGA title of the year last week, and became the first KLPGA player to surpass 1 billion won ($940,000) in career earnings.
“I’ve been playing consistent golf this year,” she said. “And I think I’ve been lucky to win as often as I have.”