Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Golf: Ko must pace herself: coach

As Women’s British Open begins instructors say teen must balance hard work with rest

Lydia Ko (right) now has the same instructors as Michelle Wie who as a teen struggled to manage the demands of professional golf. Photo / AP
Lydia Ko (right) now has the same instructors as Michelle Wie who as a teen struggled to manage the demands of professional golf. Photo / AP

When David Leadbetter and his offsider Sean Hogan took on coaching Lydia Ko they probably didn't realise just how dedicated the youngster was to the game.

The experienced pair were confirmed in December as Ko's new instructors after she split with long-time adviser Guy Wilson due to the geographical constraints of Wilson being based in New Zealand, while Ko set up camp in Florida.

Ko's rookie season as a full-time professional on the LPGA Tour has been a success with seven top-10 finishes from 14 events this year, while she also won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic during the same week she celebrated her 17th birthday in April.

"The challenge [now] is balancing her life," Leadbetter said. "Because she's an avid practiser and she's very dedicated and the thing we are trying to get through to her, and her parents for that matter, is it's all about balance and pacing yourself.

"As time goes on it's going to be really essential that she gets the right blend between rest and play."

Leadbetter pointed to another of his students in Michelle Wie, who is a hero of Ko's, that when the American first rose to prominence as a teen, she was unable to balance the requirements of the game and suffered a major lull. "That's certainly something we wouldn't want to happen to Lydia," Leadbetter said.

At 24, Wie has since managed to strike the right mix and won her first major last month when she claimed the Women's US Open.

Leadbetter and Hogan meet with Ko two or three times a month in Florida and the Kiwi, ranked second in the world, devours all the knowledge they can feed her. "I am pretty content with the first half of the year," Ko told the Herald. "Obviously there are always things to improve on but generally it's been good overall. My goal was to try and get myself settled into the touring life as a professional and I think it's been a gradual process which has progressed one step at a time and I'm getting more and more comfortable."

Ko was set to tee off overnight in the first round of the Women's British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England as she began her quest for her first major title.

- NZ Herald

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