Golf: Ko's $5300-a-day income

By Steve Deane

Lydia Ko's $5300-a-day income means she's earning twice as much as All Black captain.

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

Teenage New Zealand golf queen Lydia Ko has earned the equivalent of more than $5300 every day since turning professional late last year.

Ko celebrated her 17th birthday by winning her first LPGA tournament as a professional yesterday in San Francisco, pocketing the winner's cheque of $314,676. The payday took her total prize money to $856,026 over the 159 days since she entered her first tournament as a professional on November 21 in Florida.

Watch: Golf: Ko wins LPGA Classic

The figure - which does not include endorsements or sponsorships - works out at near double All Black captain Richie McCaw's salary, which is estimated to be in the range of $800,000 to $1 million per season.

Ko still has some way to go to eclipse breakout NBA star Steven Adams, however, whose listed salary for his first season is $2.6 million.

Yesterday's victory came with Ko caught up in a wrangle over whether she should continue to receive taxpayer funding to bankroll her Rio Olympics campaign. New Zealand Golf (NZG) had applied for $208,000 on her behalf. That funding application would now be reviewed, NZG chief executive Dean Murphy said.

The funding application was based on what Ko needed to complete the transition from an amateur to a full-time professional and "those needs are changing rapidly", Mr Murphy said.

"The point where she becomes fully self-sustained and able to fund and manage her own development is not very far away. [Yesterday's] result obviously brings that forward some distance."

Ko's victory was great for the sport in this country, Mr Murphy said.

"There is a huge amount of satisfaction and pride in what she has done. Lydia is obviously very close to our organisation and we couldn't be more delighted with how she continues to amaze us.

"It's just a great thing for golf and there is a great vibe about our sport at the moment. [Her] showing what young Kiwis can do on the world stage is just brilliant for us."

An emotional Ko said having both of her parents at the course had spurred her on to victory. It was just the second time her father, Gil Hong Ko, had attended a tournament since she turned pro.

"I am not going to cry now," Ko said. "All of the tears are gone. But it is very special to have him here. Tears nearly ran down my face after I made the putt and during the [victory] speech. Having your parents here, you may lose friends but you are not going to lose your parents. They are always with you. That's what made me feel a little emotional. I tried to make myself not cry with happiness but it was coming to that point."

The win ended a tremendous week for Ko, who was named as one of Time magazine's most 100 influential people.

"I don't know what I've done to get there," she said of the recognition.

"I don't think I would have had a better birthday week. I won here and I finally turned 17. I felt I had been 16 for a long time."

The victory took her to fifth on the LPGA money list, with total earnings of $588,816. She also banked $234,406 after placing 21st and first in her first two pro tournaments last year and $32,710 for a second-place finish at the NZ Open in January.

- NZ Herald

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