Ko coming to grip with success
IT HAS been a whirlwind few weeks for 14-year-old Lydia Ko and the golfing prodigy is still getting her head around becoming the youngest ever winner of a professional tournament.
Ko, who finished as the leading amateur at the Australian Masters on the weekend in a share of 32nd place, has been a target of intense interest at home and abroad since her record-breaking win at the New South Wales Open.
Rewriting the record books has become part and parcel of her amateur career and the significance of her win hasn't quite sunk in yet.
"No, not really," Ko said from the Gold Coast. "I haven't had time to think deeply about my achievement. At this stage it's just another tournament."
As she prepares for the Australian Open this week, Ko isn't fazed by the prospect of being one of the favourites for New Zealand Women's Open in Christchurch from February 17.
Having been the world No 1 amateur for almost a year, Ko is familiar with the pressure and she has her own ways of dealing with expectations.
"I don't really think about it, although being asked about expectations and winning all the time, makes me a bit nervous," she said.
"I guess I will get used to it, and I know when I am around my team I will be okay. I will just play my game and try and do New Zealand proud."
Gregg Thorpe, the New Zealand Golf talent and coach development manager, believes Ko has handled the progression to the elite level superbly.
"For some players it can take a year or two to adapt to the elevated level of professional competition, but it's never really fazed Lydia," Thorpe said. "She now has two years of experience at this level, and this experience along with her superbly consistent golf game is helping her to forge a path like no other."
Ko finished tied for seventh and fourth at Pegasus in 2010 and 2011 respectively to amaze the international field. When she finished seventh in 2010, champion Laura Davies was 36 years her senior.
Davies quipped at the evening presentation: "12 years old? Be a good girl, then, go home and play with your dolls. Isn't it past your bedtime?"
Two years later and Ko keeps improving. She feels the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club suits her eye and is comfortable there.
"It's not too long, it's kind of flat and there are not too many hard tee shots that I see in my eyes,'' she said. "I like it when the wind blows because I control the ball well.
Her coach Guy Wilson added: "She is so consistent, and she doesn't stray much in the wind. When the course fights back, she holds strong.
"The afternoon northeasterly is Lydia's friend. It beats everyone up but she can handle it."
Ko is flying straight from Melbourne after the Australian Open to Christchurch on Monday.
"Since it's only three rounds, I get another day's either rest or practice and I've played the course a lot, it won't take me long to get up to speed."
While all the talk is about lowering the expectation on the youngster, Ko would naturally love to become the first New Zealander to win the national open.
"It would be an honour but, at this stage, I am just looking to make the cut and shoot good numbers. I can't control what the other players shoot."