Lydia Ko tees up with the burden of expectation

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:01 21/11/2013
Lydia Ko
Getty Images
PRO KIWI: Lydia Ko has admitted she will be nervous when she takes to the golf course for her first professional outing.

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OPINION: Lydia Ko only needs to turn to her playing partner tomorrow morning if she needs any advice on how to handle the pressures of becoming a professional and growing up under the golf world's watchful eye.

At 4.30am tomorrow (NZ time) Ko will tee off as a professional for the first time and with her will be someone who knows only too well the pressure which comes from being the "next big thing", American Michelle Wie.

Wie was a child star too and was expected, as a pro, to take the world by storm.

She's had not too bad a career, but at world No 65 and with just two professional wins, she's hardly a world beater. Wie is also one of Ko's idols and someone she enjoys playing with.

That should make what could be an awkward first round easier for the 16-year-old.

While plenty of punters expect Ko to continue the fine form she had as an amateur, this is different. This is the professional ranks, and it can be hard.

The individual tournaments aren't much different, nor are the players Ko will battle against, but the week-to-week grind is.

The season-ending Titleholders Championship is a safe event for Ko to make her first professional start in. There's no cut and she's had time to familiarise herself with the course since heading to Florida after her exams.

But it won't always be like that. If she does play a more hectic schedule than this year, as expected, Ko will have to travel week to week and won't have the luxury of a handful of practice rounds on each course.

That's what's worked for her in all of her four wins so far. The fact she's playing for money now won't be a major concern as she's hardly on struggle street.

That said, how she fares in her initial tournaments will relate to how marketable she is and could affect which endorsement deals she picks up. It is understood a number of potential sponsorship suitors are taking a wait and see approach with her.

Then there's expectation. There was little expectation on her as an amateur and while she always did well, there was a ready excuse that she was just an amateur as a safety net if needed.

That's now gone. A big chunk of the expectation will be coming from within. She may have a friendly smile and a teen charm, but she's also fiercely driven.

Others have had strong amateur careers too, but not have gone on. Making sure she's not just another good amateur will no doubt be important to Ko.

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She wants to be the world's best. Ko is the current world No 5 despite only playing a limited number of tournaments.

If she makes this transition as smoothly as she and her fans hope, No 1 and a whole host of records could well come her way.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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