Golf calls but Lydia Ko still after top marks

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013
Lydia Ko
Fairfax NZ
Lydia Ko

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Lydia Ko is accustomed to passing every golfing test confronting her, but the world's leading female amateur is anxiously awaiting her year 11 exam results.

The studious 15-year-old Korean-born Kiwi takes an unorthodox approach to her sporadic education at Pinehurst College on Auckland's North Shore.

While her classmates routinely take seven subjects, Ko limits herself to three - not that she enjoys an advantage despite her reputation as a straight A's student.

Should she maintain that status when the results are posted this week it will be another remarkable achievement because she effectively crammed a year's study into a fortnight before surveying the papers.

Ko spent four months away engrossed by her passion - and future profession - in the United States and Europe, and belatedly hit the books.

Guy Wilson, the director of instruction at the Institute of Golf in Albany and Ko's coach, said his star student could play catch-up while abroad but preferred to do homework on her swing or short game.

"There is an opportunity for it but it's all focused on the golf," he said.

"When she gets back she crams the hell out of it."

Wilson said it was a deliberate ploy for Ko to take only English, maths and a science discipline because three subjects are all that is required for entry to a college in the United States.

"We're looking that far ahead. There's no point her doing five subjects if she's only going to be picked on two or three."

Ko's history-making 2012 ensures she faces an even tougher playing schedule this year, starting with the relatively low-key defence of her Australian amateur title in Melbourne today.

She will also seek to retain the NSW Open - the catalyst for a year that sees her in contention for a Halberg award next month - and then aim for a top five finish in the LPGA Tour's Australian Open in Canberra.

The youngest winner of an LGPA event in Canada last year, Ko also has commitments at the New Zealand Open and NZPGA Pro-Am before lining up in all five majors for the first time.

Although Ko's game already justifies her presence among the professionals, it is a work in progress and the make-up of her bag has been altered in a bid to peel off more distance on the fairways.

Ko tries her new club selection in a competitive setting for the first time on the Woodlands and Commonwealth Golf Clubs on Melbourne's sand belt, where she is favoured to retain her crown.

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Her first goal is to survive two rounds of strokeplay qualifying before the top 32 women switch to matchplay.

She also spearheads the New Zealand women's hopes in the team competition while Vaughan McCall is considered the best hope in the men's competition where the leading 64 players after qualifying will seek to succeed 2012 champion Marcel Schneider (Germany), who subsequently turned professional.

New Zealand team: Lydia Ko, Munchin Keh, Julianne Alvarez, Vaughan McCall, Blair Riordan, Tyler Hodge, Bradley Kendall.

- Fairfax Media

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