An appealing aspect of teenage golf star Lydia Ko is that she retains, despite her stunning successes and the machine building around her, an infectious sense of fun.

The joy she radiated after leaping into Poppy's Pond at Rancho Mirage after her come-from-behind win in the first women's golf major of the year reflected a confidence which gives her game strength.

Over the course of a championship she is quite different: cloaked by a steely determination, the Korean-born, New Zealand-raised talent plays with an steely focus that has carried her to the top of her sport. But even then, she remarked this week, she likes to enjoy "being out there with the girls". Explained Ko: "I play better when I smile."

Just shy of 19, Ko is in the form of her life. She is ranked number one in women's golf, and showed in California that she can cope with intense pressure by holding her nerve and bringing her terrific short game to the show. For New Zealanders who have watched Ko grow from a child prodigy to the carefree spirit who jumped into the lake, it is a special satisfaction.


From an early age it was clear that Ko had qualities that would carry her a long way. As a child she showed her coach she could cope with disappointment and at the tender age of 10 exhibited astonishing mental strength to overcome heat exhaustion and finish second in the world age-group championships.

Tina Hyon, Ko's mother, who has been at her daughter's side right through her career, has said that as a baby Lydia never cried.

Perhaps she was getting ready to smile.