Welcome to the big-time, Lydia Ko. Not that you hadn’t already grown somewhat accustomed to it.
At just 16 years old, Ko has joined a select group of young stars who have made an impact on the ladies’ tour and all but forced the LPGA Tour‘s hand into allowing them to compete. The others who have broken that age barrier – Morgan Pressel in 2006, Jessica Korda in 2011, and Lexi Thompson in 2012 – have all proven their worthiness of membership on the professional circuit.
Ko’s situation, though, is unique in that she won’t have to earn a card through Q School, as both Pressel and Korda did. Even Thompson went through the first stage before winning the Navistar LPGA Classic and petitioning the Tour for membership. Ko isn’t some flash in the pan. With two LPGA victories to her name already and ranked No. 5 in the world, the question for LPGA commissioner Michael Whan should be simple.
What took you so long?
“After reviewing Lydia Ko’s petition, I have granted her LPGA tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season,” Whan said in a statement regarding the decision. “This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year. […] We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season. It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA Tour champion.”
I’m sure those development sessions will be valuable to a teenager with a shiny new Tour card, but this decision didn’t need to be made by Whan. Ko made it for him with her play, and she already showed a level of maturity beyond her years by not turning pro the instant she won her first LPGA event.
The best thing that can happen for the sport of golf is to get young people interested in it. The more young talents that either Tour can highlight, the better. The message of inclusion is paramount; if you’ve got the game, come play with the best. It’s a motivator for young fans and players, and it grows new stars for the future.
Ko’s proven her ability, now she’s got the title to go with it.