Major global sponsor is lined up for Lydia Ko
Sports management giants IMG will take a back seat in Lydia Ko's golf career, with the 16-year-old Kiwi phenomenon and her family still very much running the show.
Ko yesterday announced a management and marketing contract with IMG Worldwide, which is set to reap immediate rewards with a major global brand expected to sign on with her in the coming days.
It will be the first of several sponsorship and endorsement deals rolled out in the next month, IMG wasting little time with the world No 4 and hottest property in women's golf right now.
It's understood Jay Burton, IMG's leading women's golf agent, will look after Ko, who is a "high priority" for the company, according to a source.
IMG would not divulge how long the agreement was for, or how it ranked among other contracts with female golfers, citing confidentiality clauses in the contract.
But an IMG representative said the company would not be actively involved in running Ko's career.
The family will still drive golfing matters and the day-to-day operations - her mother Tina Hyon will continue to be hands-on in this respect - but IMG will be heavily involved in marketing and sponsorship and the wider picture.
"We're perfectly happy to be in the background. Lydia is very good with everybody and all we will be looking to do is add to that," the representative said.
"What we bring is scale of reach on a worldwide basis. We will work with the family, just as we do with our prominent golfers and tennis players."
IMG represents fellow women's golfers Michelle Wie, Jessica Korda, Beatriz Recari and Jaye Marie Green.
It was reported last month that the management giants were in discussion with Ko and it seemed inevitable that a deal would be struck.
Mike Scanlan, director of public relations and communications for IMG Golf, confirmed last night that IMG had been dealing directly with Ko and her family and that the company would take a hands-off role when it comes to golf.
"IMG Golf will assist in all aspects of Lydia's career with a focus on global marketing. We feel that the resources we possess across all continents will offer her a professional advantage from a business perspective, allowing her to focus solely on her game between the ropes," he said.
"Lydia's amateur career speaks for itself and we are thrilled to help her transition into life as a professional golfer both on and off the course. We feel that Lydia can be a dominant player in women's golf for decades."
Ko is flying high after winning last week's Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in Taiwan, in just her second tournament as a professional.
She became the first player to win two LPGA events as an amateur, and now has five professional tournament wins during the past two years, from a limited playing schedule as she juggled professional and amateur tournaments with schoolwork.
Ko was the top-ranked female amateur in the world for more than three years - since she was 13 - prior to turning pro in October. She got an exemption to join the LPGA Tour after petitioning the commissioner, with rules dictating that a player has to be 18 years old to join.
She will defend her New Zealand Women's Open title in Christchurch late next month.