This article was published on March 19, 2005 - the first mention of Lydia Ko in the New Zealand Herald.

This is a true story: during last week's women's national amateur championships, the field included a seven-year-old.

Lydia Ko of the Pupuke club shot a 98 and three rounds of 100 or just over off a 14 handicap. Onlookers reported that, like most seven-year-old girls, she skipped down the Titirangi fairways.

The field also included 10-year-old Cecilia Choi, of Whitford Park, 11-year-old Katie Seo, three 13-year-olds and eight 14-year-olds.

That must have made the five 15-year-olds and seven 16-year-olds feel positively ancient.

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But that's the way New Zealand golf is going. The days of the interprovincial tournament being heavily populated by white New Zealand women in their 30s, are largely gone.

"At elite level it's becoming a real young woman's game," Women's Golf New Zealand programme manager Gaylene Eyre said.

"I would like to look at how we can encourage those 25-35-year-old women to continue playing. They're certainly good enough."

She puts that falling off down to there being more working women now than 20 years ago and leisure time has become more precious rather than any feeling that the "oldies" don't fancy getting whipped by the kids.


The story as it appeared in the Herald on 19 March 2005.

"People who have to take time off to go to play the interprovincials, the New Zealand amateur and New Zealand strokeplay, that's basically their three weeks' holiday gone.

"It's great in respect that we've got that many young women playing the game, but at the same time we've got to be aware of not losing those experienced golfers."

The large proportion of the teenage girls making waves are Korean. Eyre praises their work ethic and believes that has had the spinoff of helping raise the bar for young New Zealand girls.

In the men's amateur game, it's much the same story. Players such as Kevin Chun and Jae An, who lined up in the 2001 New Zealand Open at Paraparaumu Beach as a 13-year-old and played all four rounds, are setting new standards.

Those two, plus the likes of Seve Ha, 13, and Samuel Shin, 15, were all scratch golfers at about 12.

The ages aren't as extreme as the women's game, but the drift in ages is the same.

"The game became cool with young kids in 1997 when Tiger Woods rose to fame," New Zealand Golf operations manager Phil Aickin said.

"We know our junior membership jumped by 24 per cent following that year.

"In the 1980s we all took time off work to compete. Now most of the field take time off school or university, and they're there to win."

Of the 130 entries received so far for next year's men's amateur, 45 are teenagers, of whom seven are younger than 16.

Other early Lydia Ko mentions:

Peter Williams: Relentless dedication should never be child's play
12 years old and playing for New Zealand
Ko becomes youngest Australian strokeplay winner
Ko gives pro world a taste of her talent
In pictures - Lydia Ko through the years:

Ko, aged 12, at the 2009 NZ Women's Amateur Golf Championships in Auckland. Photo / David Rowland

Ko competing in the fourth and final round of the Pegasus New Zealand Women's Open in Christchurch in February 2011. Photo / David Alexander

Ko celebrates after winning the NZ Women's amateur championship in Christchurch in April 2011. Photo / Martin Hunter.

Ko in action during the Auckland Secondary Schools Strokeplay Golf at Pakuranga Golf Club in May 2012. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Ko tees off on the first hole at Clearwater Golf Club in Christchurch during the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open in February 2013.