With a 10-under-par 63, a course record for the women, Ko took the lead Thursday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open at Royal Canberra Golf Club. Ko, the 15-year-old amateur sensation from New Zealand, will start the second round one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe and two in front of Jiyai Shin.
Ko’s bidding to win her fourth professional title in 54 weeks. She’s looking to win in back-to-back weeks after claiming the New Zealand Women’s Open last week.
“I wasn’t close to her when I was 15,” Tseng said.
Ko put on a clinic playing alongside Tseng and Michelle Wie. Ko finished five shots ahead of Tseng and 11 in front of Wie.
“I feel like I’m getting old,” Tseng cracked.
Tseng is 24, Wie is 23.
Tseng marveled at how Ko’s youthfulness was so at odds with the maturity of her game.
“She is still a child, she still looks 15,” Tseng said. “But the way she is playing golf, she looks like a pro. So, I treat her like a pro, but I treat her like a child, too.”
Ko said she started with some nerves playing alongside Tseng and Wie, but after opening with a bogey, Ko went on a tear, making four consecutive birdies and then holing a wedge from 97 yards for eagle. She didn’t have a par on the front nine. She ended her round with 11 birdies, an eagle and three bogeys.
“I was pretty nervous when I saw the draw, that I was playing with two of the big names, but I mean the weather was beautiful, I think we all enjoyed our time out there,” Ko said.
At 15 years, 9 months and 17 days old, Ko won the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open on Sunday to become the youngest winner of a Ladies European Tour event. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur last August and two weeks later became the youngest winner of an LPGA event when she claimed the CN Canadian Women’s Open. She also won the New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour in 2012.
With Ko’s torrid run, speculation continues to mount over how long she will continue to play as an amateur. She has won $470,000 in prize money as a pro that she hasn’t been able to collect in retaining her amateur status. Ko will tee it up again in the LPGA’s Honda Thailand next week and has a sponsor’s invite to the Kraft Nabisco Championship later this spring.
Lexi Thompson turned pro when she was 15 years and four months old.
Michelle Wie turned pro days before her 16th birthday.
While Ko said she is still considering attending college, possibly as a pro, as So Yeon Ryu and Michelle Wie have done, the pro game beckons.
Guy Wilson, Ko’s coach, told Iain Carter of BBC Golf that the time is nearing.
“We may go down the road of petitioning the LPGA to say that we want to turn pro early, or do we wait until she is 18?” Wilson said. “She's got some big goals this year, and I think if they go all right, she may look to turn pro later this year.”
This is what Ko said about college on Thursday: “There are so many options. I mean, I could enroll and do it later after a year of going pro, or doing it the same time, but you know, I definitely will be wanting to go to college.”