Newly minted pro Lydia Ko will be a full-time LPGA member beginning with the 2014 season, commissioner Mike Whan announced Monday.
Ko, 16, has won twice on the LPGA and is No. 5 in the Rolex Rankings. She had filed a petition with the LPGA seeking a waiver of the tour’s age requirement of 18.
“This decision ensures that Lydia can attend all of our LPGA rookie development sessions that take place in the early part of the year,” Whan said in a release. “We are looking forward to having Lydia as a full-time member for the 2014 season. It is not often that the LPGA welcomes a rookie who is already a back-to-back LPGA tour champion.”
Lexi Thompson was 16 when she won the Navistar Classic in 2011, and then successfully petitioned the tour so she could claim the tour exemption that came with the victory. She played her first event as a full-time member one day before her 17th birthday.
The LPGA said that Ko, who turned pro earlier this month, would play out of category 7 on the LPGA Priority List, which is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member. Ko already has nine top-10 finishes, and she will make her pro debut at next month’s CME Group Titleholders.
She became the youngest-ever LGPA winner, claiming the CN Canadian Women's Open in 2012 at age 15. She successfully defended her title this year.
“I am very excited to become a member on the LPGA tour,” Ko said in a statement. “It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA and play against the world’s best players. I know that becoming a member is not only performing well, but to deal with the responsibilities very well. Women’s golf is growing day by day, and I would love to be able to inspire other girls to take up the game, and go for it.
“I believe this is only the start to my career and I have many new things to learn along the way. I am so grateful to get the opportunity to play with the players I look up to and respect. I can’t wait to start the season early next year.”