Kiwi golf sensation Lydia Ko received an unexpected surprise for her 17th birthday - being chosen by Time magazine as one of its 100 Most Influential People.

In a small profile written by the most successful golfer of all time, Annika Sorenstam, Ko was described as leading golf's youth movement - and was the only person from the sport represented on the just-released list.

"Lydia Ko is exceptionally talented, mature beyond her years and well liked by golf fans and competitors alike," Sorenstam wrote.

"She is responsible for sparking increased interest in our sport not just in her native South Korea and adopted homeland of New Zealand but also among juniors across the globe."


Sorenstam, an eight-time LPGA player of the year, said Ko's early, record-breaking success brought with it "incredible pressure - and she's doing a fantastic job handling the many responsibilities that accompany stardom".

"Her future is very bright. All I can add is to enjoy the ride."

Time Magazine tweeted the news directly to Ko, this week in California for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, who retweeted it.

Ko has collected an impressive number of golf accolades over the past few years.

After winning the LPGA's CN Canadian Women's Open in 2012 and 2013 as an amateur, she had been the top-ranked woman amateur golfer in the world for 130 weeks when she announced she was turning professional last year.

She was hailed after becoming the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event, and the youngest person ever to win an LPGA Tour event.

It's also not the first time Ko has graced the pages of Time - last year, she featured alongside fellow Kiwi Lorde in a list of the year's most influential teens.

Others on Time's Most Influential People, released overnight, include Russian leader Vladimir Putin, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and pop star Beyonce, who also appeared on the cover.