Soon-to-be pro golfer Lydia Ko a $6m woman

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2013
lydia ko
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CAREER MOVE: Lydia Ko could be a professional by the time the New Zealand Open rolls around.

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Lydia Ko could pocket $6 million when she decides to turn professional. And that's just the start.

The 16-year-old sensation has leapt to No 4 in the official world rankings on the back of two wins and nine top-10s in 14 professional tournaments this year and her stock continues to rise.

When Ko turns professional - most believe it will be later this year or early next - there are expected to be a number of suitors waiting in the wings.

The value of endorsement deals for women are often well below those for men, but Ko is a very attractive proposition from a management and marketing point of view, says Auckland-based Roar Sports Marketing director Hamish Miller.

Miller, a former A1GP, Warriors and New Zealand Football marketing manager and footballer Ryan Nelsen's business partner, said Ko's age, "immense talent" and the way she handled pressure made her a marketing dream.

"All the characteristics that top, top athletes have, she appears to have," Miller said.

"There's no shortage of top athletes, but what differentiates them is the top two inches and the way Lydia has performed under pressure shows she has it. Those who are going to make it are those with something special in the top two inches."

What all that is worth isn't easy to calculate.

"I know it sounds like a cop out, but she'll be worth what people are willing to pay, there's no simple formula for these things," Miller said.

Two other industry experts, who wish to remain anonymous, suggested Ko's initial management contract could be worth about half of that of fellow Kiwi Danny Lee.

Lee signed with management giant IMG when he turned pro in 2009 for a reported US$10m (NZ$12.07m).

Miller said half of that figure "sounded about right".

"It really is hard to work out, but that's a pretty good starting point."

As well as a lucrative management deal, Ko would also be in line for a number of endorsements ranging from apparel, equipment, hats, watches, shoes and even cars.

Miller warned the money and deals might not roll in immediately.

"I think the acid test will be in two to three years," he said.

"I can see a management company signing her up then leveraging off her success in a few years and signing some bigger deals then on her behalf."

It could go beyond obvious endorsement deals, too; the very top players can attract deals with corporates that have nothing to do with golf.

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However, Miller said the hype around one of Ko's idols, American Michelle Wie, could count against Ko's appeal with corporates, initially at least.

"Wie hasn't succeeded as well as some perhaps thought she could have. That could temper some of the corporates' involvement."

There might be more of a wait-and-see approach from some.

Regardless of how much Ko signs for or how many deals she picks up when she does turn pro, one thing seems certain; the $1.8m in prizemoney she would have collected from her 25 professional tournaments, but forfeited by remaining an amateur, will comfortably be surpassed.

- The Press

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