Lydia Ko has received full membership to the LPGA after tour commissioner Michael Whan waived the age requirement for the 16-year-old wunderkind who already has two tour wins on her resume.
"After reviewing Lydia Ko's petition, I have granted her LPGA Tour membership beginning at the start of the 2014 season," Whan said in a statement on Monday. "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."
Ko, who officially announced her decision to turn professional via YouTube last week, successfully overcame the increasingly irrelevant mandate that a golfer be 18 to join the organization. She followed in the footsteps of Lexi Thompson, who, also at 16, attained tour membership after launching her own petition campaign two years ago.
A New Zealander who was born in South Korea, Ko has opened eyes all over the world with her golf game. She pushed Thompson out of the history books when, at 15, she became the youngest winner of an LPGA event at the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open.
Ko achieved a similar feat on the Ladies European Tour when she won the New Zealand Women's Open last February. She followed up both accomplishments by defending her title in Canada in August.
Whan considered three primary factors in accepting Ko’s request for LPGA affiliation, according to Golf Digest’s Ron Sirak. The teen prodigy will turn 17 on April 24, she’s won twice, and she’s mature enough to compete and confab with sponsors and potential backers during pro-ams.
(Video via Golf Channel)
Ko, who will kick off her professional career at next mont’s CME Group Titleholders event, will become a member of the LPGA under "category 7," a slot that's set aside for players with LPGA victories.
"I am very excited to become a member on the LPGA Tour. It has always been my dream goal to play on the LPGA, and play against the world's best players," Ko said in a statement.
"I know that becoming a member is not only performing well, but to deal with responsibilities very well," Ko added. "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."