Ko might retire at 30; possible career in psychology

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Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko can’t see herself in professional golf for the long run.

She can imagine retirement coming as early as age 30.

“I think you never know what’s going to happen,” Ko said in her pre-tournament news conference Wednesday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. “I always say my plan is to retire when I’m 30. So, I’m not going to just go to the beach and hang out for the rest of my life after that. There’s always a second career that comes along, and I’m trying to build up towards it.”

Ko enrolled at Korea University this year, where she plans to study psychology. She will begin taking classes in March, with a curriculum designed to allow her to do most of her work online. Her agent, Michael Yim, says she’s so interested in psychology she’s already talking about pursuing a doctorate.

“We’re going to try to do a lot of online work, and I have some big textbooks that I need to read, too,” Ko said. “We’ll always find a way to try to do it.

“Psychology itself is something I’ve always been interested in, and there are hundreds of topics in psychology, but it’s something I could connect with in golf, and in sports, so that’s what kind of took my attention. It’s going to be tough to juggle both things at the same time.”

Ko became the youngest No. 1 in the history of professional golf when she ascended to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings three weeks ago.

Though Ko, who turns 18 in April, may be a quick study, she confirmed she still doesn’t have her driver’s license.

“I need to go to a driving school and do it, but I’ll probably do it in the states, because that’s where I’m based and probably easier there,” she said.

Ko likes to crack on her driving skills off the golf course.

“I’ll warn you guys if I’m on the road,” she said.

While Ko says she is looking to contend more consistently in majors as she seeks to win her first, her goals are broader.

“I think just having fun is probably my biggest goal,'” she said. “When you have fun, everything kind of goes by fast, and going fast is not a bad thing when you're playing 25 or 26 tournaments. To me, my top goal in every season is to have fun and enjoy it, because I've had points where I've stressed out and my self-expectation has gotten on top. So I try to block it all out.

“When I'm having fun, that's when I play the best so it all matches up.”

Ko, who has already won eight professional titles around the world, will return to New Zealand next week to play the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open. She won the event two years ago.

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who turned 40 in December, is the defending champ this week. She marvels at what Ko is doing at such a young age.

“She’s such a level-headed girl,” Webb said. “I don’t even think it really hits her what she’s doing. I think she’s grown up with golf, and it’s just supposed to go in the hole, and it does, and she does it very well and very consistently.

“I keep saying that we’re never going to see another young player this ready at this age, and then Lydia Ko comes along and sets the bar even higher for young players. At any age, it’s an outstanding achievement, to be No. 1 in the world, but to do it at 17 is incredible.”