Sporting Achievement of the Year 2013: Lydia Ko

By Dana Johannsen

We're running nominees for the Herald's sporting achievement of the year and will announce the winner tomorrow

The unstoppable golfing great Lydia Ko turned pro in October. Photo / AP
The unstoppable golfing great Lydia Ko turned pro in October. Photo / AP

With a shrug of the shoulders and the words "Okay, I'll do it", teenage golfing phenomenon Lydia Ko announced she would be joining the ranks of women's professional golf.

Known for her timing and precision on the course, Ko struck just the right note with her announcement that she was going pro in October. Rather than holding a sterile press conference to announce the news that had been predicted for weeks, Ko, a true product of her generation, chose to declare her intentions through a video posted on YouTube. It featured Ko playing a round of golf with All Black Israel Dagg, showing the playful side of the Auckland teen's personality as she found a quirky way to answer the long-asked question over when she would turn professional.

But she well and truly announced her arrival in the professional ranks over the weekend when she collected her first winner's cheque, taking out the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters event in Taiwan in just her second tournament as a professional.

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The nature of her three-stroke win underlined the teen's incredible poise and composure, with Ko trailing Korea's So Yeon Ryu by three shots at the turn in the final round. She produced a flawless back nine to surge past Ryu and snatch her first victory as a pro.

It was hardly a surprise to see Ko atop the leaderboard so soon - she was the top-ranked women's amateur golfer in the world for 130 weeks before turning pro, and fifth overall in the world.

Ko's impressive track record made LPGA commissioner Mike Whan's decision to waive the age restriction and grant the 16-year-old a tour card a no-brainer. As Whan noted: "It's not often the LPGA welcomes a rookie who's already a back-to-back champion."

Last year at the age of 15 she became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when she won the Canadian Open. This year she defended her crown with a tournament record score, before following it up with a second place at the Evian Championship in France. She also became the first Kiwi to win the New Zealand Women's Open - a European Tour sanctioned event - at Clearwater.

Finishing her year with another big win, Ko - named with Kiwi music sensation Lorde as one of the world's most influential teens by Time magazine - looks set to make a big impact in 2014.

- NZ Herald

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