After scooping $1.9 million in winnings in Florida yesterday, Kiwi teenage golf sensation Lydia Ko is breezing back to Auckland to tee off for charity.
Fresh from victory at the season-ending CME Group Tour championship, in which she almost doubled her career prize earnings after a thrilling four-hole playoff, the 17-year-old professional golfer is seeking no fee for her attendance at the Takapuna Golf Course on Sunday.
Participants paying $150 each or $500 for a group of four will get to play with or against Ko on the 10th hole, says course general manager Eric Kang.
It is understood Ko will arrive in Auckland on Thursday night, and is set to fly back to the US on Monday.
New Zealand Golf Association high performance sport manager Gregg Thorpe said the organisation was aware of the charity, which it helped to select scholarship recipients, and he understood Ko's father was a friend of its main organiser.
He said of Ko after her performance yesterday that the star "continues to surprise us because for all the goals she sets herself, she tends to blast right through them."
"Never before have I seen anything like that in my time at NZ Golf."
Ko's former coach Guy Wilson, with whom she parted ways in December for logistic reasons, said it was amazing to see how quickly she had shown her dominance on the world stage.
"We have known for a long time she will be someone making headlines for years to come, but she has now proved it to herself," he told the Herald.
"It is only a matter of time before she takes the top of the world mantle," he said of his former protege, who is now ranked No 3 in women's golf. I pick before she turns 18 [in April]."
Excitement was at fever pitch at Pinehurst School in Albany, where Ko has officially graduated as a Year 13 student.
Pinehurst communications and marketing manager Vicki Wilson said the school tweeted "Go Lydia Go" yesterday and was delighted when Ko within an hour of her victory re-posted the message to her followers around the world as a favourite.
Big payday but Lydia has $10-a-birdie deal for now
She may have netted the biggest payday in women's golf history, but Lydia Ko won't be getting her hands on the money for a while yet.
The teen golfing star yesterday capped off a remarkable rookie season on the LPGA Tour, winning both the Race to the CME Globe and the Tour Championship for a NZ$1.9 million windfall, bringing her total career earnings since her first event as a pro in November last year to NZ$4.1 million. That's more money than most people - let alone a teenager - can get their head around. Fortunately Ko doesn't have to try to contemplate what to do with it just yet, with her mother Tina Hyon keeping tight control over the purse strings.
When asked what she intended to do with the prize money after taking out the Marathon Classic in July - a win that earned her $265,000 - Ko joked she'd have to wait and see how much pocket money she would get from her mother.
"I think I get $10 per under par shot, it's good ... I don't need money to spend on these huge, big things," she said.
With 379 birdies and four eagles this season, that brings Ko's total pocket money this season to $3830. Not a bad chunk of change for a 17-year-old.
Before yesterday's win, Ko was already among one of the country's top earners in sport, featuring in sixth place in the Herald's Sporting Rich List published in September.
Having picked up a swag of new awards since then, including being named the tour's rookie of the year, the likeable teenage golfing prodigy is also in line to earn millions in endorsements, with some estimating her earning potential as high as $6m.