Ko your average teen despite new pro status

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2013, 10:17 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko seems old for her age.

Sometimes, she appears to be 16 going on 30, but her mother knows better.

Tina, Ko’s mother, reminded us on the eve of her daughter’s debut as a professional at the CME Group Titleholders that Lydia really is still a teenager.

While Tina says Lydia isn’t very materialistic, she has been peppering her mother with a particular wish.

“She wants a puppy,” Tina said Wednesday after Ko’s news conference at Tiburon.

Before just about every tournament, Tina says, Lydia tries to strike a deal with her. If Lydia wins, she wants the puppy. Now, as a pro, she could buy it herself with the prize money.

“I say no,” Tina says.

Tina reminds Lydia that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog because they travel so much, and they’ll be traveling even more when Lydia begins her rookie season as a full LPGA member next year. And they can’t leave the dog with Lydia’s father, Hong, or older sister, Sura, back at their Auckland home in New Zealand.

“They have allergies to the hair,” Tina said.

It says something about Ko that with all the things she might have purchased with the $934,000 she left on the table as an amateur in 11 LPGA starts this year, she only pines for a puppy. As is Lydia’s nature, however, she doesn’t get upset about her mother’s veto.

“There isn’t a bad bone in Lydia’s body,” says Danielle Kang, who is Ko’s closest friend on the LPGA’s tour. “She’s just a very happy kind of person, very mature for her age. It shows in her golf. She plays so carefree, having fun. I kind of lost that when I turned pro.”

Ko might have left nearly a $1 million in LPGA winnings on the table this year, but she didn’t go without some spending money. Tina revealed that Lydia earned her allowance this past year playing golf.

“$5 a birdie,” Tina said.

Ko was asked if she knew what the first-place check is worth this week. It happens to be $700,000, the richest winner’s take in all of women’s golf.

“I wasn’t that interested,” Ko said. “Then my mom looked it up, and she said it was like, $500,000 last year and it’s gone even higher this year. I said, `Oh, so people who don’t come in first place will get less money this year.’”

While the tour kept this year’s CME Group Titleholders purse at $2 million, it substantially ratcheted up the winner’s share.

Naturally, with Ko playing as a pro for the first time, she’s being asked a lot about money this week. She won’t really know how playing for money affects her until she’s over a putt worth a lot of it.

“As a rookie next year, I think that will be the year I learn the most,” Ko said. “Being a professional and being an amateur is totally different, and next year I’ll have to learn a lot. This year, I think I only played one or two tournaments back to back, so that’s a whole different thing where I’ll need to play three or four in a row.

“Next year, I’ll need to perform well, but it’s more about learning and getting more experience.”

The Kos don’t seem in any rush to cash in on the financial opportunities there for Lydia. Though Ko visited Callaway last week to test equipment, there is no pending deal. She also visited TaylorMade and is interested in testing Fourteen, the Japanese clubs. The Kos also have yet to choose an agent or strike an endorsement deal.

“She’s still wearing amateur clothing,” Ko said.

In fact, Ko was wearing a New Zealand Institute of Golf cap in her news conference Wednesday at Tiburon. That’s where her coach, Guy Wilson, is based, and it’s where she practices a lot when she’s home.

There is a new logo on Ko’s bag, Puma, but that’s only because Puma replaced Srixon as the funding sponsor for New Zealand Golf, the national foundation that supported Ko’s amateur run.

Ko travels only with her mother, Tina, a former middle school English teacher in South Korea, where Lydia was born before the family moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. Lydia’s father, Hong, takes over the parental golf role when Lydia is home practicing.

“Her father is with her from morning till darkness at home,” Tina said.

Hong ran a small business, but Tina said it failed in recent years. The couple have devoted themselves to Lydia’s career, with New Zealand Golf’s help. The national foundation has funded the Kos' travel and golf needs.

Tina and Hong are married, but Tina kept her maiden name, Hyon. Lydia’s mother and father don’t play golf. Neither does Sura, 24, Lydia’s older sister. Sura studied architecture but works at the Auckland airport now.

“Lydia and Sura are very close,” Tina said. “Lydia calls Sura her angel.”

Lydia is also very close with her parents, two very different personalities. Tina says Hong’s intensity rises and falls from morning to night, something Lydia teases him about. Asked where Lydia’s unflappable disposition comes from, Tina smiled. She said Lydia gets her even-temperament from her, but to Lydia’s dismay, she also passed on her looks to Lydia.

“My husband is good looking, much better than me,” Tina said. “My oldest daughter, she’s really beautiful like her father. Lydia says, mom, `Why is my sister much more beautiful than me?’ I say, `Sorry, Lydia, it’s my fault.’”

Hong is with his daughter whenever she practices back home in New Zealand. He has never traveled to the United States for any of her LPGA starts. He doesn’t speak English. There is a small Korean community in Auckland where he doesn’t really have to speak English. Lydia speaks Korean with her father.

The Kos revealed Wednesday that they are looking for an American base to live. They may purchase an apartment, but likely not until next year, at the earliest.

“We are looking in Florida, Texas, and a couple other places where there’s no income tax,” Ko said.

Ko got a big laugh in the media room when she revealed part of her conversation with Phil Mickelson while she tested equipment at Callaway last week.

“Phil mentioned that one of his biggest mistakes was staying where the taxes are high,” Ko said.

Ko calls Mickelson an idol, and when asked her career ambitions, she pointed to Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa.

“I want to be remembered like Annika or Lorena,” Ko said. “They did so much for the LPGA, the women’s game. One of the big things is I want to be known quite well to the spectators for being very nice and very friendly. I obviously want to be the world’s best golfer in the future.”

Ko’s first steps as a pro to that end come Thursday at Tiburon.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.