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Ko discusses allegiance to New Zealand, South Korea

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Lydia Ko might prove to be more marketable playing off her South Korean heritage, but she won’t abandon her Kiwi homeland.

In a media teleconference call Monday, New Zealand reporters twice asked Ko about whether she would want to represent South Korea or New Zealand when golf returns to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Ko, 16, was born in South Korea but moved to New Zealand when she was 6. She gained her New Zealand citizenship when she was 12.

“I’ve played for New Zealand the last couple of years, and I haven't made any plans to change it at all,” Ko said. “I love it here, the culture and the country itself.”

The LPGA announced Monday that Ko’s petition for a waiver of its rule requiring members be at least 18 was granted. She will play her first event as a pro in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders Nov. 21-24 in Naples, Fla., but won’t play her first event as a tour member until next year. The LPGA deferred membership until 2014.

Ko’s South Korean heritage could add some extra marketability to her decision to turn pro. South Korea reveres women's golf and businesses offer significant support to the sport.

About five minutes after Ko was asked where her Olympic allegiance would reside, she was asked if there was temptation to play under the South Korean flag to attract more lucrative endorsement deals.

“Nothing has changed in the last five minutes,” Ko said. “Or over the last couple years.”

Ko said she expects to continue to make her full-time home in New Zealand.

“I think I will be based here, because all my family is here at the moment,” Ko said. “It would be quite a big change to move somewhere else.”