T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Lydia Ko, teen star, ready to join professional ranks
Lydia Ko, the teen star from New Zealand and No. 1-ranked woman amateur in the world (she's also No. 5 in the world among all female golfers), is ready to make the jump to professional golf.
The 16-year-old, who turns 17 next April, has decided that her next start in a professional event will be as a professional, according to a report by GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell.
Mell wrote that Ko's mother, Tina Hyon, told GolfChannel.com Wednesday that Lydia will make the trip to Naples, Fla., for the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Titleholders next month and is also considering a possible spot in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico the week before.
“If she plays any pro events now, she will play as a pro,” Hyon wrote GolfChannel.com in an email.
Here's a fun video from New Zealand Golf showing Ko as an 8-year-old on the golf course and tracking her rise to fame:
Ko is already well-versed in the professional game with four professional wins as an amateur, including a successful defense of her CN Canadian Women's Open in August on the LPGA Tour. When Ko won the event in 2012 at age 15, she became the LPGA's youngest winner.
The LPGA requires its members be at least 18 years old, but Ko's mother told Golf Channel that the family has officially filed a petition seeking a waiver to the rule.
Mell writes: "As a non-member winner of a tour event, Ko is entitled to claim tour membership. She could seek to claim immediate membership for the rest of 2013 and through 2014. Or, she could defer membership to next year. However, Ko can’t do either without first obtaining a waiver of the tour’s age restriction. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan holds the power to grant or deny such petitions."
Lexi Thompson won the Navistar Classic in September of 2011 at age 16. She petitioned a for a waiver of the Tour's age restriction -- deferring to the 2012 season -- and was granted the waiver shortly thereafter.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.