OPINION: Observing Lydia Ko's brief but stellar professional golf career is like watching a little sporting miracle unfold.
The Korea-born, New Zealand-based sports prodigy is rewriting record books with apparent ease, and her star looks set to rise for as long as she wants it to.
At just 17, she is the youngest player to earn US$1 million, having this week chalked up her second LPGA tour victory since turning professional less than a year ago, and her fourth overall.
Already ranked No 2 in the world, it is a question of when, not if, she becomes No 1. An inevitable major title will confirm her as a force in women's golf.
It is not just that Ko has got game. It's her calm manner, composure under pressure on the course and her impeccable demeanour off it that have her earmarked as a future sporting great.
When she duffs a shot or makes bogey she doesn't scream or throw her club. She laughs at herself.
Golf eats players alive and burnout is always on the radar. But Ko is showing she has the temperament to avoid the usual pitfalls.
She is a sports marketing dream. Likeable, respectful to her elders but still a fun-loving teenager at heart, she so far appears impervious to the trappings of success. No scandal here - her laundry is clean and crisply folded.
Ko's maturity is astonishing. She has a rare ability to get her head into the game. She visualises where she wants to put the ball and has the technique to execute it.
Golf is a notoriously fickle pursuit. It torments and teases and plays tricks on the mind.
It takes an icy kind of character to overcome the mental obstacles, quite apart from the physical ones. Yet Ko is leaving older, more experienced players in her wake on the leaderboard.
A lot of it has to do with her work ethic. She is fanatically dedicated to hitting golf balls. The muscle memory helps keep her swing consistent. She is also a big game player who finds another gear in competition.
Time named her as one of its 100 most influential people, and she is credited with sparking increased interest in golf around the planet among junior players.
There are a lot of people watching her and there is untold pressure on her to perform. She's handling it all so far. Go Lydia Ko.
- The Southland Times
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