Lydia Ko is more nervous about funding row

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 17/04/2014

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Lydia Ko dodged any curly questions about the controversial government funding request on her behalf and was instead met with gentle queries about her rookie season ahead of her latest LPGA Tour tournament.

The 16-year-old world No 4 was one of five players in a mass press conference before the $1.98m LPGA LOTTE Championship in Hawaii which starts tomorrow (NZ time).

A Fairfax Media investigation last week revealed New Zealand Golf (NZG) had applied for $208,000 to pay for her coaching, physiotherapy and mental skills training, travel and accommodation for her and her mother.

Ko has earned more than that in her 10 tournaments played as a professional.

NZG boss Dean Murphy has previously defended a need for Ko to continue to receive government funding despite being a professional as it would help her build a strong and sustainable career.

He expected Ko to receive less funding over time.

Murphy was reported this week as saying Ko has been affected by the backlash she was receiving in New Zealand over the funding.

"She's really worried about it," Murphy told Newstalk ZB.

"Her management team certainly are really worried about it and she's got an event to play next week and right now she's wondering what media questions are going to be asked of her and if she's going to continue to get this abuse while she's trying to be focused on playing."

She needn't have worried as the Hawaiian media were more interested in asking home-town girl Michelle Wie questions over the four top-10 players - Ko, world No 1 Inbee Park, Anna Nordqvist and Paula Creamer - at the press conference.

Ko was asked whether or not she felt like a rookie because she appeared so comfortable on the tour.

"I do feel like a rookie," she said.

"I think after this season I will know more about the tour. So, yeah, I'm feeling like a rookie out here and I'm learning a lot of things. I'm getting to play all the courses that I haven't before. I'm enjoying the moment."

Ko has been paired with Americans Lizette Salas and Cristie Kerr for the opening two rounds of the event.

Kerr is the world No 11 while Salas, the world No 14, finished second at the event last year after shooting a final round, 10-under 62 to come from five-shots back and force a playoff with Suzann Pettersen.

The 62 was the low final round of the 2013 season and lowest of Salas' career.

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