Say the name Lydia Ko a few weeks back and you might get a few confused looks. That was pretty much the type of response that the young lady’s mere mention seemed to elicit while her fellow LPGA competitors like Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson seemed to be headed on a track of increasing popularity. Add Lexi Thompson’s steady top 10 finishes and competitive Sunday rounds and you could see where Lydia Ko might not have risen to the top of many people’s radar.
Personally, I remain delighted to see Korda, Henderson and Thompson play their hearts out. I think that they all are deserving of the fury of fandom that has arisen for them. However, I find that Lydia Ko has demonstrated another side of professional golf that many fans seem to forget along the way.
Promising Early Years
Look back on Lydia Ko’s early years in the professional ranks. At one point up until 2017, Ko was the youngest player to win an LPGA event at age 15. She set the record on August 26, 2012, when she won the Canadian Women’s Open at age 15. That’s remarkable but not the only thing.
In 2015, Ko rose through the LPGA ranks to become the youngest golfer on the LPGA Tour ranked No. 1. Considering the level of competition and the amount of hard work and dedication required to maintain throughout a professional golf tour, Ko demonstrated an ability to hang among the top players early on in her career.
The Struggle Got Real for Ko
Professionals are not immune to what happens in the world. In fact, their world seems to either explode or implode based upon what’s happening around them and within them and their inner circle. The emotional drain and the pressure from the press can seem to eat away at the joy of fulfilling a lifelong dream of success at the sport a pro loves to compete in time and time again.
Lydia Ko was not immune to the bad press either, especially as she sought to remain among the top-ranked LPGA players. During her down times, it probably didn’t help her professional motivation when she was struggling professionally and people started pointing fingers in the press. Her former coach David Leadbetter blamed her parents in 2019.
Her struggles on the course showed up in different ways:
- In 2015, Ko missed the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship shooting a 76 in the second round
- Ko shot a 79 at the 2017 Ladies Scottish Open and missed the cut
- Prior to petitioning for professional status with the LPGA in 2013, Ko had “never missed a cut in 25 professional events”
- Even physical issues seemed to plague Ko’s comeback to a degree
The fat-shaming and other psychological stress can take it’s toll on a person, even a professional golfer with promise and potential. In an interview with Henni & Hally, a more personal side of Lydia Ko was shown to reveal how “she’s just like everybody else.”
At the end of the day, Lydia Ko struggled for a matter of time within her career. Let’s not get too judgmental about it, though. Tiger had his struggles. Lefty has had his low points. We could name a slew of pros who haven’t always made it to the top 10 finishes and some who have not always made the cut. Ko’s struggles are not limited to her career alone.
Her Return to Glory
One golf journalist called Ko’s swing “picture perfect.” Some have pointed out how the slow motion videos of her golf swing reveal her training to achieve that turn. I think that her golf swing, especially with a driver, stands out as one of her mainstays.
Admittedly, Ko says that her slump period had her not leaving herself in contention to compete for any type of championship finishes. But all of that seems to be in the past. It seems as though she’s shaken off the down times and approached the game with a newfound vigor.
With her recent finish at the CME and taking the Rolex Player of the Year, Lydia Ko finished the 2022 LPGA season back on top among the best of the LPGA. With that $2 million dollar CME purse and her upcoming wedding in focus, it appears that Lydia Ko is on top of the world.
Let’s see what next season brings about.