Friday August 31, 2012
Lydia highlights rise of Asiaís Tiger women
SINGAPORE: Untold hours of training and unstinting parental support put teenager Lydia Ko on top of female golf – a formula followed time and again by Asia’s world-beating women.
When New Zealand amateur Lydia, who was born in South Korea, became the youngest ever US LPGA winner aged 15 last week, it was the result of years of dawn-to-dusk practising and a love of golf which started when she was five.
Such dedication, which bore fruit with her remarkable three-stroke win at the prestigious Canadian Women’s Open, earned her a place among the Asia-Pacific players who now dominate the world rankings.
Seven of the women’s top 10, including Taiwan’s world number one Yani Tseng, come from Asia. Among the current top 50, 33 players are from the Asia-Pacific region, mainly South Korea or Japan.
On Sunday, Lydia became the 13th Asia-Pacific winner on this year’s LPGA schedule, out of only 19 events played so far. The win propelled her 140 places up the rankings to 45, and drew comparisons with Tiger Woods.
As if to make a point, unflappable Lydia played the final round in red, the Woods trademark. And just like the 14-time Major-winner, she built on her overnight lead to win with room to spare.
“My mom asked me this morning what do you want to wear, and I said, black pants. And she said, red top? And I was like, OK,” shrugged Lydia on Sunday.
“She said, oh, you’re going to look like Tiger Woods, because you know, he seems to do that as well. And red is a good colour, because yesterday I wore a grey the top, and my aunt called and said, ‘You look too dark’.
“So I guess this is bright enough, right?”
Lydia’s interest in golf started at five, when she was given a putter and a seven-iron by an aunt. Four years later, aged just nine, she played the New Zealand amateur championship, and she won her first national title aged 11.
At 12, Lydia finished tied seventh in the New Zealand Women’s Open, five shots behind winner Laura Davies. Last year, she missed victory at the NSW Open by a single stroke and became the youngest ever world number one amateur.
And in January, Lydia succeeded Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa as the youngest winner, male or female, of a professional event at the Women’s NSW Open in Sydney. But her success has been earned the hard way.
Earlier this year, Lydia told reporters she trains up to 50 hours a week in the school holidays, from sunrise to sunset, cutting down to 30-40 hours in term-time as she builds towards a professional career and the 2016 Olympics.
While the relaxed, bespectacled teenager stressed that her parents never pushed her towards a golf career, their backing has been vital as she juggles the sport’s rigours with her studies.
According to Rae-vadee Suwan, chairwoman of the Ladies Asian Golf Tour (LAGT), staunch parental support is a common thread that runs through the success of Asia’s women players.
“You have to have parents who are quite determined for their daughters to do well. It’s very important – the parents have to pay attention and push them along,” she told reporters. — AFP