Editorial: Time to halt the financial support
Supporting someone's dream is fair enough, but giving taxpayer dollars to a professional is wrong.
Lydia Ko, the 16 year-old golfing prodigy, is asking for more support despite turning pro last year. As an amateur, she received $115,000 from High Performance Sport NZ in 2012 and $185,000 last year. New Zealand Golf has applied for $208,000 this year to pay for her coaching, physiotherapy and mental skills training.
This, despite her pocketing $181,000 for winning the Swinging Skirts Ladies Masters tournament in Taiwan last year and collecting more than $280,000 so far this year. That is not counting the millions can she potentially make in management contracts and endorsement deals. She has also bought a house in Florida, so she is not short of a bit of cash.
NZ Golf Chief Executive Dean Murphy claims she still requires the funding as she is not yet self sufficient. He also says the application was lodged when she was still an amateur. That is a bit of stretch as she may have applied for it then, but she does not need to continue with the request. One word from her management and the application could be withdrawn.
The request for financial assistance is to help her prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio in two years' time. It is to give her the best chance of claiming gold. It is odd to have golf as part of the Olympic Games anyway and stranger that professionals will be there.
It is unfortunate for the highly talented Ko to deal with all the negative publicity surrounding this application as she is, by all accounts, a grounded young woman. She has done remarkably well to get to where she is today at such a young age. Ko could not have made it this far without the support from her family, her coaching team and, quite rightly, taxpayer support in the early part of her career.
It should also not be forgotten that she is not the only one benefiting from taxpayers' money when they do not need it. Valerie Adams still gets state funding and no doubt the sevens teams, which is full of professionals, will get state funding to get to Rio. That is wrong. Once you are a professional, all that funding should cease so it can be used to aid other up-and-coming sports stars.
High-performance sport has also funded pro golfers Michael Campbell, who won the US Open in 2005, and Phil Tataurangi.
Unbelievably, Murphy believes the opportunity to make money in a particular sport should not be a major consideration in an application.
He argues that if a player plays really well and wins a lot of tournaments, then it can be lucrative, but "in reality even the very best players don't win all the time". Maybe not, but that is their choice to be a professional sports person. There is only so many times an individual should be able to go to the taxpayer well.
The onus is on high-performance sport to refuse the application and ensure the money goes to the next would-be Lydia Ko, Valerie Adams or Hamish Bond.