Sign of the times: Ko has first sponsorship deal


Just weeks after making her professional debut, Lydia Ko cashed her first winner's check. Now, she has her first sponsorship deal to go along with it.

The 16-year-old Kiwi has signed a three-year sponsorship with the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, better known as ANZ. The deal was announced Thursday by IMG, which represents the teen phenom who is set to play her first full year as a professional on the LPGA in 2014.

"It's great to have the backing of ANZ at this crucial point in my career as I take on the international pro circuit and the best female golfers in the world," Ko said as part of the release.

A winner of the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open as an amateur, Ko successfully defended her title north of the border this past August. After much speculation, she announced her decision to turn pro in October and tied for 21st in her debut at last month's season-ending CME Group Titleholders.

Earlier this month, the teen recorded a win in just her second start as a pro when she claimed the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters by three shots over So Yeon Ryu, defeating a field in Taiwan that included world No. 1 Inbee Park. The victory brought with it a $150,000 first-place prize and moved Ko to No. 4 in the latest world rankings.