Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Thank you Ko for the great present

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Lydia Ko. Photo / AP
Lydia Ko. Photo / AP

Here's another great reason to love Lydia Ko - she's given us a sporting Christmas present.

We sports-struck oldies don't hear Santa sleighs and bells any more, although we do get slayed in the malls to the ring of cash registers. Christmas is a time for a feed of extra good ham, and then quick, get the telly back on a sports channel.

It's often slim sports pickings around this time of year. Then whacko, along comes Ko the Pro who gives her coach Guy Wilson the boot, to take up with a celeb guru in parts yonder. The newspaper columns on Ko and co kept coming over the weekend, and here's another one. I feel for Wilson as much as the next sympathiser, and the decision initially stunned, true (it would be fascinating should Wilson elaborate).

But in the cold light of day, a few minutes after hearing the news, it made as much sense as it didn't make sense. And a day later, it made even more sense. If you are taking on the world stage, then hook up with a world famous coaching outfit if you can - David Leadbetter Inc has a serious CV.

Let's try a guessing game. After 11 years with one coach who has been a dominant figure throughout your childhood, maybe a change is good for its own sake. And how can anyone like Ko know her full potential by sticking to the same lane? Leadbetter also has access to wide coaching choices and big time contacts. Ko, who is well-travelled, will know this world and its options way better than us, with understanding any limitations around her former setup. There are no certainties here, yet.

A likeable teenager has made a hard-nosed decision, no emotion allowed. That was the big shock. But it shouldn't surprise us too much. Ko's age and easy manner are deceptive. For the best read on the real Lydia Ko, look at her practice regime and the results.

On the nationality front, the so-called fears that sacking a coach was a precursor to sacking a country raises the tricky business of our attitude to Asian immigrants. It has been claimed quite openly over the years that Korean golf prospects come here to use then abuse the place. Many New Zealanders hold similar prejudices about Asian immigrants in general.

The world has changed. The quarter-acre dream has been replaced by high rises. We are truly multicultural and multinational, with all the nuances that brings. And yes, people will turn up here to use the facilities, just like Kiwis go around the world using other people's facilities. It's all part of being in a more interesting, less myopic world ... and understanding that individuals within cultures are real people with differences.

I've only had one "conversation" with Ko on this topic, via email, and she never claimed - the memory says - to be a total convert to the Kiwi dream, sucking on roast lamb, gyrating to the The Exponents and going crazy at the Mount over New Year when there was the far more exciting business of practising golf for eight hours a day on offer.

Ko, who came here as a tot with her family, is of two cultures and didn't play patronising games pretending to choose one over the other. Ko did always say she would play as a New Zealander.

Here's another angle to consider. Anything much less than becoming the world No1, and New Zealand would drop Ko like a sack of bad presents. We want her loyalty, but how much do we give back? How many people are still interested in the Korean-Kiwi amateur sensation Danny Lee, even though he flies the New Zealand flag. We've had golfers who made millions in Asia, almost in obscurity.

The brilliant swimmer Lauren Boyle told me that she has come to realise New Zealanders don't really understand and support world class success outside of the mainstream (football codes) and Olympic years, and that women find it even tougher than men for recognition. None of us, least we media types, could argue.

And anyway, while lesser players have commercial reasons for switching nationalities to become more valuable in Asia, Ko is in another league, zooming in on the world No1 ranking. In America, there is actually a backlash, allegedly, against the Asian dominance of women's golf.

Who knows what lies ahead for this amazing sportswoman? But thanks Lydia Ko, for the Christmas present, giving us a fascinating sports career to argue over and showing the way for budding Kiwi golfers who could do with a big dollop of Korean-style dedication. From this distance, stuffed full of ham, I wouldn't know how the coaching change will go. But you've not made bad moves so far. Good luck girl.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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