Brilliant Lydia Ko hints at change of plans

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
Lydia Ko
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
CHANGE OF PLANS: Lydia Ko.

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Lydia Ko's remarkable start to the Australian Open has intensified a revision of her career plans - turning professional instead of developing her game in the US college system is firming as a possibility next year.

The 15-year-old has said she is in no hurry to join the LPGA Tour on a permanent basis and was determined to spend two years in the US education system.

However, yesterday's staggering 10-under 63 at Royal Canberra - less than a week after her history-making triumph at the New Zealand Open - means the Korean-born Aucklander might be playing alongside world No 1 Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie on a more regular basis sooner than expected.

Australian veteran Karrie Webb has already urged Ko to turn pro and while she was carving up the layout, her coach and mentor Guy Wilson told Fairfax NZ the transition may be fast-tracked.

"Realistically she's probably going to look to turn pro next year, only because the opportunities now are pretty obvious.

"Wasting two years at college could be a disadvantage," said Wilson, who calculated she would have banked more than $500,000 from her wins at the NSW, Canada and New Zealand Opens.

Ko would need dispensation from the LPGA to join the tour - the age limit is 18 - but on current form an exemption would not be an issue.

Asked what her plans were regarding college after schooling her rivals, Ko was undecided.

"There are so many options. I could enrol and do it later after a year of going pro or do it at the same time. I definitely want to go to college."

Ko enjoyed yesterday's learning experience alongside two of the sport's biggest names and was far from overawed as she dominated a marquee grouping.

After launching her tilt at the $US1.2 million LPGA season-opening tournament with a bogey she proceeded to rack up an incredible 11 birdies en route to the lowest round of her career - a two-shot improvement on her 65 at the 2012 NSW Open.

Ko also conjured up one of the shots of the day - a perfect wedge from 89-metres that produced an eagle three on the 15th.

She starts today's second round a stroke clear of Colombia's Mariajo Uribe while Korea's Jiyai Shin is lurking at 8-under.

Ko teed off on the back nine and by the turn she was 6-under - a low-scoring spree that featured four consecutive birdies.

Two-time champion Tseng did her utmost to keep pace with the cheerful teen but had to settle for a share of seventh at 5-under.

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After signing her card there was a sense of resignation in the Taiwanese star's voice.

"I feel I'm getting old," the 24-year-old confessed before lavishing praise on Ko. "She just looks like a child, she still looks like 15 but, the way she's playing golf, she looks like a pro."

- Fairfax Media

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