Lydia Ko is 16 years old, has two LPGA wins and has three other wins in professional tournaments. Not bad for an amateur from New Zealand.
By staying amateur, Ko has made a lot of people happy, people who believe that 16-years-olds shouldn’t be professional and who believe money can be delayed in the pursuit of education.
Those people might be a little upset today as word is out Ko has petitioned the LPGA to waive its requirement that members must be 18 years and old grant Ko membership to the tour.
“The LPGA has received Lydia Ko’s petition and the Commissioner plans to review it upon his return from Asia,” the LPGA said in a statement this morning. “The decision on the petition will be solely up to the Commissioner’s discretion and upon his review, he will communicate directly with Lydia and her family. The LPGA does not comment publicly on petitions as they are a private matter between the player and the Commissioner.”
Okay, that’s fine, but actually the commissioner shouldn’t have to think about this for too long. Ko has already proved she has the ability to be on the LPGA with her two weeks and several other top-10 finishes. Based on that alone, Ko should be granted the waiver and made an LPGA member.
Why turn pro now? Well, the more then $1 million Ko left on the table this year has something to do with it. But don’t be surprised if there isn’t already a plan in place for Ko to play as a pro and still attend college, a la Michelle Wie. Part of that plan will almost assuredly include finding a base of operations in the United States.
Are there dangers in letting a 16-year-old turn pro? sure there are. You would be silly to think otherwise. There are agents and sponsors and parents and hangers-on and pressures that the average 16-year-old never has to face. And yes, Wie continues to be a kind of blueprint for what to do and what not to do (Wie turned poor at 16 as well).
But here’s a guess that the commissioner will have whatever fears he might have over Ko turn pro eased by Ko herself and a seemingly strong support group she has around her. And the commissioner surely understands that Ko is a potential star on a tour that is always looking for stars.
So when the CME Titleholders tournament is played at the end of the LPGA season (and perhaps even one tournament before that), expect Ko to be a pro and a member of the tour.