SBD/October 28, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA Grants 16-Year-Old Phenom Lydia Ko Full-Time Membership For '14

Ko is ranked fifth in the world despite being 16 years old
The LPGA today granted membership for '14 to 16-year-old Lydia Ko, who "petitioned the LPGA tour to turn pro earlier this month," according to Steve DiMeglio of USA TODAY. Ko currently is ranked No. 5 in the world and plans to "compete in her first event as a professional" at the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 21-24. She earned a spot in the tournament field by "winning the 2013 CN Canadian Women's Open, her second win on the LPGA tour." Ko had to file a "petition with the LPGA to seek a waiver of the tour's ruling requiring members to be at least 18" (USATODAY.com, 10/28). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Ryan Lavner notes Lexi Thompson was 16 when she won the Navistar Classic in '11, and then "successfully petitioned the tour so she could claim the tour exemption that came with the victory" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 10/28). Golf Channel's Damon Hack said, "This is a player who is so special, who seems so mature beyond her years. I voice concerns about having a teenager granted special membership, but she’s a special player. This is a rare bird we’re seeing" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 10/28). GOLFWEEK.com's Beth Ann Baldry writes under the header, "LPGA Makes Right Call In Granting Ko Membership." LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan "made the right call" in granting Ko membership (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/28).

WHAN DOES NOT WANT TO RUSH PLAYERS: Golf World’s Ron Sirak noted he talked to Whan earlier this year about the tour's age limit and noted Whan does not want to "send a message out to kids to abandon their education." Sirak: "There were three key factors why he approved this petition. One, she is going to turn 17 April 24th, and that’s relatively early in the year. He doesn’t like 16 but 17 is a number he can live with. Especially since she’s won twice, that’s the second factor. The third thing is the maturity factor. He says, and this is a great point, ‘These players are not just competing, these young women are also selling the tour.’ Definitely mature enough to interact in the pro-am, to hang with sponsors, more importantly to hang with potential sponsors.” Sirak noted Ko's team has not "been rushing things, they’ve taken things one step at a time." Sirak: "She won on the smaller tours before she won on the LPGA, so I think they’ve showed a real patience in there and I don’t think that they are going to overextend her. I think that they are aware of the pitfalls and they are going to avoid them” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 10/28).
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