Golf: Lydia Ko's coach change unfortunate but inevitable

By Kris Shannon, APNZ staff

Lydia Ko and her former coach Guy Wilson earlier this year. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko and her former coach Guy Wilson earlier this year. Photo / Getty Images

The timing may be unfortunate but Guy Wilson would have expected the bad news sooner or later.

The coach who oversaw Lydia Ko's rise from a five-year-old into a golfing phenom today announced his star pupil would be flying the coop.

Ko told TVNZ it was sad to stop with Wilson because he had been a great coach and friend, but she and her family had decided it would be too difficult to continue the coaching arrangement because she would now be based in the US.

"It doesn't really work; him being here and him coming on the weeks that I'm not playing a tournament means I'll only see him like 10 times a year, and to me that kind of situation didn't work out,'' Ko said.

It was an unwelcome early Christmas present for Wilson, who first started working with Ko when her clubs were taller than her, but such are the realities of professional golf.

Ko will nowlink with American-based Sean Hogan at David Leadbetter's academy and, according to one former Kiwi pro, it was inevitable the 16-year-old would eventually branch out.

"I don't think it was ever going to last," said John Lister, who played 12 seasons on the PGA Tour. "There's nobody who sticks with their coach - apart from Jason Day who has had his coach his whole life. Traditionally, coaches don't last with players."

While that may be true, the split does seem premature. Ko and Wilson have combined for incredible success in their 11 years together and, at a time when her newly-professional status will bring so much change, stability should be paramount where it can be attained.

Set to spend next season on the LPGA Tour, Ko will be based overseas for much of the year, but she already had a hectic travel schedule during her unprecedented amateur career.

"I'm sad to hear it because they can do most of the coaching over the phone, with all the videos and different stuff," Lister said. "If [Wilson] was to see her once every three or four months, it would be plenty. She doesn't need somebody every day.

"I'd be very reluctant to be changing anything with Lydia. She's done pretty damn well with what she's doing, and if it ain't broke don't go and fix it."

There is recent precedent in New Zealand golf for ignoring that axiom. Danny Lee, this country's last top prospect, turned professional at 18, signed a big-money deal with sports management group IMG, and immediately dumped his coach.

Ko has now completed those steps - it is hoped she won't follow Lee's prolonged form slump - and it hasn't sat well with everyone. New Zealand No 1 Michael Hendry, who works with Wilson at the Institute of Golf, voiced his displeasure at the decision on Facebook.

"Isn't it amazing how big business and big money can make people forget who really cares about them," Hendry wrote. "Still one of the most amazing pieces of coaching I have ever seen."

In a statement, Wilson said he was "incredibly disappointed", while it was also telling that neither he nor Ko were willing to comment further.

The pair's relationship had previously been described as like big brother and little sister, and Ko could come to regret the schism in the family.

"In my experience, I've never heard a coach say, 'don't change a thing, you're doing everything perfect'," Lister said. "They find things for players to do which, eventually, will not help the player."

New Zealand caddy Steve Williams said he felt sorry for Wilson. It was very important for a sportsperson to keep an established core group of people around them, he told TVNZ.

"I think it's an astonishing decision," he said. "He's just been dumped. There's no other word for it.

"That's a hell of a lot of time of your own personal time you put in and to have no compensation. Obviously, when you turn professional that's when you get compensated as a coach.''

- APNZ

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