Altvater: Lydia Ko petitions LPGA Tour for pro statusWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Golf Channel Senior Writer Randall Mell announced on a segment of “Morning Drive” that teenage golf phenomena Lydia Ko will petition LPGA Tour Commissioner Michael Whan for full tour membership.
The LPGA Tour requires women to reach the age of 18 prior to gaining membership to the tour. Exceptions have been made in the past, most recently for Lexi Thompson. Thompson turned professional at the age of 15, but was not granted LPGA Tour membership until she had reached her 17th birthday.
Ko will not turn 17 years old until April 24. She has been the top ranked women’s amateur in the world for more than two years.
She announced her intention to turn professional via a youtube.com video that features her and close friend Israel Dagg, a New Zealand rugby player, playing a round of golf.
Ko has already won twice, while still an amateur, on the LPGA Tour. She won the 2012 and 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open. She also finished runner-up at the 2013 Evian Championship, a major tournament on the LPGA Tour.
In February, she won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
While still 14 years old, she became the youngest person to ever win a professional golf tournament with her win in January 2012, at the Bing Lee Samsung Women’s NSW Open in New Zealand on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour (ALPG).
Ko has never missed a cut in 25 professional events and is ranked No. 4 on the Rolex Rankings behind only Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis.
Whan is normally reluctant to grant tour membership to young ladies, but Ko’s petition seems to be warranted. She has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to compete with the top professionals.
LPGA Tour players are required to attend social functions surrounding an LPGA Tour event and the tour does not want to put young women in uncomfortable social situations at these mandatory functions.
Ko and her family had expressed her desire to attend an American university and receive a college degree. She may still have this opportunity.
South Korean golfer So Yeon Ryu received her collegiate degree last year while playing full time on the LPGA Tour. Michelle Wie earned a degree from Stanford University and still maintained a full LPGA Tour schedule.
Ko is a dynamic golf talent. She will bring a huge following from New Zealand, Australia and Asia to the LPGA Tour. It seems Whan is going to be forced to grant Ko some type of LPGA Tour membership.